We understand the reasoning behind plea deals.

Without them, legal experts say, the U.S. justice system could grind to a halt as both sides spend time and money taking each and every case to trial.

So it's common for prosecutors and defense attorneys to negotiate.

The defense might offer to plead to a lesser charge, or the DA might recommend leniency in exchange for a guilty plea to the original complaint.

Case closed. On to the next.

Like we said, we get it.

But not every case deserves a deal.

Certain charges, we think, demand prosecutors pursue the harshest penalty possible – charges like those Robert Carl Yeager is facing, for instance.

The 36-year-old is accused of kidnapping a 7-year-old girl from her Paradise Township home last June, forcing her into a nearby trailer and raping – brutalizing – her.

Afterward, police said, Yeager walked her back to her home and ordered her to climb through a window, threatening to kill her family if she told anyone.

The girl did report the attack and identified Yeager based on a tattoo.

Yeager, 36, formerly of Paradise Township, remains in York County Prison without bail, charged with child rape, kidnapping, aggravated indecent assault, burglary, making terroristic threats, indecent assault and corruption of a minor.

If true – and that is for a jury to decide — no amount of prison time is enough, we feel.

Certainly, Yeager wouldn't deserve a deal that allows him to serve significantly less than the maximum penalty.

But that's what the York County District Attorney's Office is offering.

Under the terms of a proposed agreement revealed this week, Yeager would plead guilty to child rape and kidnapping in exchange for a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison.

That's a much lesser sentence than he would face if convicted at trial, senior deputy prosecutor Chuck Murphy confirmed.

The prosecutor explained the deal would spare the young victim from testifying at a criminal trial.

It's understandable — instinctive, even — to try to spare this girl any more distress. She's already endured an unspeakable trauma.

At the same time, however, the very nature of this crime makes it all the more important the accused be held fully accountable. The punishment should fit the crime, and society must be protected as long as possible from the perpetrator.

Pennsylvania law allows a child victim's testimony, including cross examination, to be recorded or given in a closed courtroom out of view of the defendant.

The accommodations are made specifically for cases such as this one.

A judge has to sign off on any deal, and we hope he or she seriously considers other options before approving this one.

What's on the table now is not justice.