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30 Years Ago, Today: It Takes A Village to Sexually Exploit a Child

July 28, 1979. Rocky II and Moonraker were in the movie theaters.  The Ayatollah Khomeini took over Iran, and Saddam Hussein took over Iraq.  “Good Times,” and “We Are Family” played on the radio that summer (“Message in a Bottle” and “London Calling” if you weren’t into disco).  Little boys wanted to grow up to be the next Michael Jackson.  Three Mile Island almost melted and Skylab fell out of the sky.

Atlanta’s murder rate was unambiguously the highest in the country.  Cops said they were understaffed, and they were understaffed, though, ironically, there were approximately as many cops then as there are now, even though there were far, far fewer residents in the metro area.

In 1979, the cops erected a billboard in downtown:

WARNING . . . You Are In ATLANTA

Where POLICE Are . . . UNDERPAID  UNDERMANNED  UNDEREQUIPPED

Use Extreme CAUTION WHILE HERE

At the bottom of the billboard, replaceable placards noted the mounting numbers of murders, robberies and rapes.

Then, on July 28, 30 years ago today, the bodies of two black children were found on Niskey Lake Road.  The boys were 14 and 13.  The Atlanta Child Murders had begun.  Boys and young men from Thomasville Estates, East Lake Village, and neighborhoods along Memorial Drive began turning up dead.  Investigators conducted “murder tours” in southeast and west Atlanta, where the bodies were dumped.

But even with all the attention — international attention, federal funding — there were even more murders that did not get counted.  Little girls who got killed didn’t make “The List.”  Young adult males who were prostituting themselves but survived to 23 or 25 before getting killed did not make the list.  Young women who were turning tricks and ended up dead barely raised eyebrows, let alone making the list.

Wayne Williams was a classic “groomer” of young children, operating in an environment that made it possible for him to proposition mere children without attracting too much attention.  One way of looking at the Atlanta child murders is this: if Williams and other, unidentified killers had stuck with older adolescents and females, they probably would have been able to keep killing for much longer without even attracting attention.

The criminals alone are legally responsible for the murders they committed, but it takes a village to overlook the systematic sexual exploitation of its children.  That village was Atlanta in 1979.  With its strip club culture and a business community all too happy to overlook that industry’s dark “feeder” side, no wonder predators like Williams were able to operate with impunity.  Street prostitution and the strip clubs fed each other, as did the drug trade — all three of which are considered candidates for decriminalization today.

Thirty years later, what has changed?  One thing, for the worse: “pimping” is now a popular and romanticized notion.  Prostitution is similarly, grotesquely ennobled as “sex work.”  So, on the thirtieth anniversary of the discovery of the bodies of two young, sadly street-wise, sadly dead children (one who wasn’t even reported missing), I have a request: those of you listening to songs glorifying pimps and whoring — who feel the need to police your language by using politically correct terms like “sex work” but think we shouldn’t police the “sex work industry” — consider the consequences for children in Atlanta whose lives are more vulnerable than yours.

Consider the price they pay for our twisted pieties.

Another Entirely Accurate Critique of the Miami Homeless Sex Offender “Crisis”:

From PROTECT, the National Association to Protect Children:

Miami’s Julia Tuttle Causeway fiasco–where about 70 “registered” sex offenders have been herded under a bridge to live–is being challenged in court by the ACLU.

PROTECT wrote about the situation earlier this year (See “Gimmicks Gone Wild,” March, 2009 Newswire), calling it a “cynical game of sex offender dumping.” The New York Times reports today that Miami probation officers are telling released sex offenders to go join the encampment, because there are virtually no area rental apartments to be had that don’t violate local residency restriction ordinances for “registered” sex offenders.

Miami area officials, like those in many jurisdictions around the country, are passing the ordinances in a desperate gesture to keep released sex offenders away from children.

The New York Times reports that Florida Governor Charlie Crist “placed the responsibility [for monitoring released offenders] squarely on local governments.”

As long as state politicians continue to peddle sex offender “registration” schemes as a low-cost alternative to incarceration and intensive probation and parole, local authorities will continue to fall back on ineffective zoning ordinances and highway bridges as their main public safety strategy.

Crime Denial at the New York Times: An Update

Yesterday, while writing about the Times‘ willful misrepresentation of a child sexual assault conviction, I noted:

[W]hen I see an offender with a record of one or three instances of “inappropriate touching,” I suspect that’s the tip of the iceberg.  I suspect the conviction is the result of a plea bargain agreed to just to get the sick bastard away from the child and onto a registry, which is the most victims can reasonably hope for in the courts these days . . .

Well, it didn’t take long to illustrate that point.  From the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Convicted Rapist Sentenced to Life — Again

Barry Daniels was supposed to spend the rest of his life in prison when he was convicted in 1978 of raping a child.

Instead, he served 19 years and was released, returning to Cincinnati where he worked for more than a decade as a maintenance man.

On Tuesday, Daniels was back in court, to be sentenced after he was convicted of raping another child, a 9-year-old girl last September.

Prosecutors had offered Daniels a plea offer of — you guessed it — sexual touching.  Just like this guy, whose fib about his own crimes was credulously reported as fact in the New York Times:

Patrick Wiese, 48 . . . said he served time in prison after having his stepdaughter touch him inappropriately. . .

Unfortunately for the nine-year-old victim in Cincinnati, Barry Daniels refused the plea offered to him, and the child was forced to testify against her rapist.  Fortunately, the jury believed her and sent Daniels to prison for life — again.  Hopefully this time it will stick:

The girl testified during the trial and, despite the stress and embarrassment, proved to be a star witness.

Before the jury was seated, prosecutors [had] offered Daniels a plea offer – to try to prevent the child victim from having to testify – that would have resulted in him pleading guilty of sexually touching the child and being imprisoned for a maximum of five years.

Note that Daniels was offered a sentence that would have put him back on the streets in five years or less.  Prosecutors were willing to essentially “disappear” the rape of a child to get him back into the system, to spare the child more trauma, and, doubtlessly, to avoid incurring the costs of a trial.  Such are the economics of justice these days: a child rapist who rapes another child after being released early is offered a slap on the wrist.

Chillingly, Daniels was willing to take his chances.  And why not?  It’s practically impossible to seat a jury these days in which there is not at least one knucklehead who imagines he is playing Atticus Finch, or re-playing 12 Angry Men, or who just believes that there is never any way to know that anybody is actually guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of anything.

The Daniels jurors did none of these things, bless them.  But if I was guilty of raping a nine-year old child, I’d still take my chances with a jury.  And when you see news articles bemoaning society’s cruel treatment of “men who did nothing more than sexually touch a child,” remember to ask yourself what they really did.   

Crime Denial at the New York Times, Part 1: Regarding the Torture of (Some) Others

The New York Times is the most important newspaper in America, and that is unfortunate, for in their pages, ordinary criminals are frequently treated with extreme deference and sympathy, even respect.  Some types of criminals are excluded from this kid-glove treatment, but that is a subject for another day.  For the most part, ordinary (property, drug, violent, sexual) criminals comprise a protected class in the Times.  Even when it must be acknowledged that someone has, in fact, committed a crime, the newsroom’s mission merely shifts to minimizing the culpability of the offender by other means.

There are various ways of doing this.  Some have to do with selectively criticizing the justice system: for example, the Times reports criminal appeals in detail without bothering to acknowledge congruent facts that support the prosecution and conviction.  They misrepresent the circumstances that lead to (sometimes, sometimes not) wrongful convictions while showing no curiosity about the exponentially higher rate of non-prosecution of crimes.

Then there is their intense personal interest in — advocacy for — offenders.  They pen long profiles of criminals, detailing their difficult childhoods, their self-reported rehabilitation, their suffering in prison, and the social conditions that allegedly “drove them” to victimize others.  These stories rarely include more than passing mention of offenders’ crimes, if they even do that.

Here is the crux of the problem arising from their pro-offender biases: you cannot easily empathize with both a rapist and his victim, so the victim must be erased, or maligned, and the crime erased, or minimized, in order to enhance the reporter’s fictional vision of the criminal.

It is as if these people labor in irony-poor air beneath a giant, pulsating edition of Camus’ The Stranger.

In addition to sloppy ethics, this allegiance to one side of the story leads to sloppy reporting.  Sloppy reporting is hardly the worst sin, but it is one that might embarrass them more deeply than the act of reducing victims to one-dimensional, inhuman flotsam.

That part, after all, is entirely intentional.

Last Thursday, the Times ran a typical crime-denying story about the travails of sex offenders who have been released from prison and now live in a homeless settlement under the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami.  The sex offenders’ advocates say that they are living in tents under the causeway because local laws restrict convicted sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of zones where children gather, and they can find no other place where they may reside legally.

The Times reporter spoke with two of the approximately seventy sex offenders who live under the bridge.  He did not bother to note that there are hundreds of registered sex offenders who actually live in apartments near the bridge and throughout the city.  You can see the location of registered sex offenders living either on or near the Julia Tuttle Causeway at the Florida Sexual Offenders and Predators website.  Go to “neighborhood search”; enter “3400 Biscayne Blvd., 33137″ (an address near the bridge), and choose “five mile radius” and “map” to view the entire downtown.  The men dwelling under the bridge appear on the left shore of the causeway.

Some of the men living in apartments have been registered quite recently, so I don’t know why it is that they have housing while others are “forced to” reside under the bridge.  Is it a question of money and not just the living restrictions law?  Are they addicts who would be homeless anyway, and that is the only place where they can live while homeless?  Is it simply getting harder for offenders to find housing because they have to register their addresses now, and landlords are understandably hesitant to accept them as tenants because then their other tenants and neighbors have access to their criminal records?  Is the housing problem caused by sex offender registration laws, as much as by sex offender living restriction laws?  What are the additional circumstances, not reported by the media, that end in an offender moving under the bridge?  Such questions are not addressed in the many news stories about the poor-sex-offenders-living-under-the-bridge.

There are thousands of homeless people in Miami: the ones who are not sex offenders, however, are not currently a pet cause in the national press.

The sight of so many sex offenders in one place is startling: it is no solution for them to live there, of course.  But then, when you expand the search area on the sex offenders website to see the sex offenders living throughout the city, something else becomes startling, as well.  Some streets seem filled with offenders.  There are seven hundred registered sex offenders in downtown Miami alone.  When you look at that map, at flag upon flag until the city disappears beneath them, you can understand why people said: “Enough. We don’t want any more of them near us.”

That is another thing you will not read in the New York Times.

The A.C.L.U. is using this sex offender encampment to challenge living restriction laws, and so “Julia Tuttle Causeway” has become a sort of national rallying cry for activists who oppose placing restrictions on where convicted sex offenders may live.  These activists unabashedly include reporters who have done an especially poor job of covering the living restrictions issue from all sides.

For example, one reporter writes that there is “no proof” that living restrictions prevent crime, and then another reporter repeats that as fact, yet they do not bother to write about instances of convicted offenders being picked up and returned to prison for refusing to stay away from restricted zones.  They never discuss cases where family members tried, and failed, to have a threatening offender returned to prison but could not because, prior to these laws, the bar was often too high to do so.  Parole officers were hesitant to act without adequate power, or they were sympathetic to the offender, or apathetic, their apathy aided by vague laws.  For one tragic example, see the Silver Comet Trail killer, here and here.

Now, large numbers of convicted sex offenders who would have flown under the radar before the registration laws and living restriction laws went into effect have instead been removed from the streets for violating the terms of their release.  Of course, there is no way to count the number of potential sexual assaults that are headed off by enforcing this part of offenders’ sentences.  But that is part of the story, if you actually report the story objectively.

Enforcement of living restrictions is complicated.  At what point do restrictions become too onerous?  Too cost-inefficient?  How many men are returning to prison for violating them?  How many of these men attacked additional victims while they were breaking the laws?  Are strict registration rules, without living restrictions, perhaps the better choice?

Or do living restriction laws offer poor communities the only chance to avoid becoming dumping grounds for huge numbers of sex offenders, even if it is a piecemeal, inefficient approach?

The Times doesn’t care to answer such questions. Faced with a complex subject, they retreat to their preferred narrative, that the men living under the Julia Tuttle Bridge are victims of government oppression:

Under the bridge on Thursday, tents and plywood shacks competed for space with rusty bicycles, a skinny cat, and a beige lawn chair. In a sign of the camp’s bereft permanence, a yellow electrical cord attached to a generator snaked through the camp flat against the ground, pounded by countless footsteps.

Bereft permanence.  And make that completely innocent victims: otherwise, the narrative grows muddy.  But how do you make the case that these seventy convicted sexual offenders are innocents deserving of sympathy?   Shockingly, rather than reporting their official records, the reporter does this by allowing the offenders he interviews to describe their own crimes:

Patrick Wiese, 48 . . . said he served time in prison after having his stepdaughter touch him inappropriately. . .

Look at how carefully the reporter crafts this phrase: “after having his stepdaughter touch him inappropriately.”  Having her . . . touch . . . inappropriately.  A whisper of a crime.  A transitory moment, a merely “inappropriate” gesture, and now he lives under a bridge, poor man, poor Humbert Humbert, three solid years of the countless pounding footsteps and extension cords and relentless sun.

Of course, that is not what really happened.

Here are the crimes for which Patrick Wiese was convicted: three counts of molesting a child under the age of 12 over a period of nine months.  The disposition is available on-line.  Why would a reporter fail to check the record?

Or rather, which is worse: failing to check the official record, or checking it and then intentionally misrepresenting it?

I have a hard time believing that the Times wouldn’t bother to do a simple, on-line fact check, so I think the reporter looked at Patrick Wiese’s record and tried to figure out how to make Wiese sound as “innocent” as possible, even though the only way of doing so would be to collude in obfuscating — denying — his repeated sexual assault of a young child.

The Times, after all, wanted its readers to see only one thing: a bridge, with broken men huddled beneath it, abused by the world, not abusers.  And so the reporter, doing his job, denied through careful omission repeated instances of sexual torture in the interest of advancing this agenda.

You know, like Rumsfeld did with Abu Ghraib.

Only when Abu Ghraib happened, the Times howled to the heavens.  Then, they took a stand in favor of total transparency.  They rejected arguments about the safety of the troops in wartime, calling them a smokescreen for a political agenda.  They published an “important,” line-in-the-sand essay in which Susan Sontag raged over the horror of subjecting male prisoners to sexual abuse, titled “Regarding the Torture of Others.”  They published scores of other articles exploring every aspect of those violations, slowly, graphically, outragedly.

Add to that, ironically.  For when this Times reporter was required by routine standards of journalistic accuracy to note the repeated sexual assault — the repeated sexual torture — of a child, “under twelve,” the Times allowed that crime to be swept under the carpet in the interest of advancing their agenda.

Some victims of repeated sexual abuse are just more important than others, I suppose.

It would have taken one sentence to present a correct record of Patrick Wiese’s crimes.  Not only should the Times have done that, but given the subject of the article, they should have noted his denial of the serious nature of his crime alongside the official record documenting it.  The article, after all, was supposed to be about measures taken to address recidivism by sexual offenders.

How do you justify talking about recidivism policy while denying the recidivist nature of the crimes committed by the very person you are using to illustrate the subject?

Consider the particular horror of this instance of child sexual abuse.  The victim was a child, under twelve; she was forced to live with her rapist.  He had access to her all of the time; she was also forced, for months, or years, to behave as if the rape was not happening.  She had to go to sleep at night with him in the house.  She was told by him that she was the one who was guilty of touching him.  She was told that “touching” him (one must assume sexually manipulating him) was a minor thing, nothing to take seriously or tell.  And then, after enduring the horror of repeated assault, then police interviews, and frightening exams, and a terribly frightening trial, a reporter comes along and says to the world precisely what the rapist said to her: “She touched him.”  “Yeah, it was inappropriate.  Touching.”

I know several victims of childhood sexual assault, and this type of denial on the part of others is every bit as soul-corroding as the assaults themselves.

Consider this, too: anyone who works with childhood sexual abuse victims will tell you that prosecuting abusers is incredibly difficult because circumstances make it very easy to avoid leaving the types of physical evidence that can hold up in court.  After all, offenders live with their victims; they often dress them and undress them and bathe them and lie down next to them in their beds, so unless a child-victim is so severely injured that he or she is brought to the hospital directly following an assault in which semen was left behind, or the victim is infected with a traceable venereal disease, there is little chance of proving forcible rape.  Oral sodomy is even more difficult to prove.

So when I see an offender with a record of one or three instances of “inappropriate touching,” I suspect that’s the tip of the iceberg.  I suspect the conviction is the result of a plea bargain agreed to just to get the sick bastard away from the child and onto a registry, which is the most victims can reasonably hope for in the courts these days, as jurors increasingly demand DNA evidence or actual photographs of the crime.

One would think the amount of denial of crime that is built into our criminal justice system would be enough: enough of a burden to place on victims; more than enough of a burden to place on a child who has been forced to live with her abuser until somebody finally forced him to live somewhere else.  Like under the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami.

But in the newsroom of the New York Times, there is never enough crime denial, never enough opportunities to bury what has been done to victims in order to make the offenders the only real victims in sight.

An Important Law Georgia Still Does Not Have: Arrestee DNA Databasing

Back in the 1990’s, Georgia Lt. Governor Mark Taylor made it a priority to build the state’s DNA crime database.  He did this long before other states got on board, and for many years Georgia was rightly viewed as a leader in using DNA to solve violent crimes.  Taylor was driven by his strong commitment to victims of rape and child molestation who had been denied justice.  He did not heed the civil rights and convict rights lobbies who tried to stir up hysteria over using DNA to solve crimes (ironically, these same activists are howling over the Supreme Court’s utterly reasonable decision last week not to enshrine post-conviction DNA as a blanket, federal right, when 46 states already guarantee it, as even Barry Scheck admits: don’t believe virtually anything you read about this case on the editorial pages).

Taylor’s leadership on DNA databasing yielded an extraordinary number of database “hits” long before other states got their databases up and running.  In 1998, only convicted and incarcerated sex offenders were required to submit DNA samples in Georgia, yet 13 repeat-offender rapists were immediately linked to other sexual assaults, and scores of “unidentified offender” profiles were readied to be used if those offenders were finally caught and tested.

The convicted-and-imprisoned-sex-offenders-only database also revealed a chilling reality: many of the prolific rapists whose DNA matched other sex assaults had only ever been convicted of non-sex crimes such as drug crimes, burglary, and robbery.

Any prosecutor of a certain age will tell you that, before DNA evidence, it was so difficult to prosecute rapists that prosecutors often made the choice to allow rapists to plead to non-sex offenses such as burglary just to (temporarily) get them off the streets.  This strategy was directed at serial, stranger sex offenders who were known to the cops but managed to avoid conviction because the public was so resistant to finding anyone guilty of rape.  Taylor’s database made this injustice to victims visible.

Unfortunately, the types of injustice (to victims) and justice (against offenders) the database revealed was of little interest to the media.

Nevertheless, for several years, Georgia’s DNA database quietly withstood efforts by “civil rights” activists to shut it down.  In 2000, the legislature expanded DNA testing to all incarcerated felons: 70 crimes were immediately solved, including serial rapes committed by convicts who had no prior rape convictions.

In 2007, the legislature expanded the database again, adding felony probationers — that weird category, the existence of which should splash some cold water on heartfelt feelings that we are far too harsh in sentencing and imprisoning criminals.  In the real world, even violent felons still routinely walk away with nothing more than probation for their crimes.

As of a year ago, thanks to the expansion of the database, 12 of these “felony probationers” were linked to serious crimes through DNA.  That’s 12 fewer violent offenders on the streets.

Still, no paper.  Few headlines.  Fewer editorials.  And, eventually, Georgia began to fall behind other states in DNA databasing.

As I write this, Florida Governor Charlie Crist has briefly emerged from his offender-kumbaya-fervor to sign a bill requiring all people arrested for felonies to submit DNA samples for analysis — just like they submit photographs and fingerprints.  Florida now joins 20 other states that are using DNA to investigate and solve crimes (Denver D.A. Mitchell R. Morrissey has a good website explaining the use of DNA in the courts).

But Georgia still languishes on the list of states that do not require DNA samples to be drawn upon arrest for a felony.  Here is a chart comparing state laws from the DNA Resource Report.

In 2008, the Georgia Legislature did pass Senate Bill 430, which started out as a felony arrestee DNA database bill but got watered down through the legislative process.  It emerged as little more than a statement affirming that prosecutors may ask the GBI to check a suspect’s DNA sample against the existing database so long as “the sample was obtained through a search warrant, consent of the suspect, court order, or other lawful means.”  Then it concludes: “The bureau [GBI] shall not add a DNA profile of any such suspect to any DNA data bank except upon conviction.”

In other words, a bill that started out attempting to add felony arrestees to the state database morphed into a bill specifically restricting arrestee DNA from being added to the state database.  I’d like to know the story behind this watering-down, particularly as it occurred at the same time when other states were successfully expanding their DNA databases to include felony arrestee samples under certain conditions.

Why did Georgia fold?  Is there another bill in the works?

If you still aren’t convinced that arrestee DNA databasing is an urgent need, take a look at the website for DNA Saves, the organization Dave and Jayann Sepich started after their daughter Katie was raped, strangled and set on fire in New Mexico in 2003.  Her offender was arrested and convicted of several other crimes, but his DNA had never been databased, so her murder went unsolved and he went free to continue attacking women for three years after Katie’s death.

How many victims of murder and rape in Georgia would have been protected by such a law?

Meanwhile, here is a statement from FDLE commissioner Gerald Bailey to the St. Petersburg Times correcting some of its inaccurate and fear-mongering press on the issue of arrestee DNA:

A valuable tool in fighting crime

Your editorial regarding the new Florida Department of Law Enforcement DNA database legislation failed to provide the public with a full picture.

This initiative, once funded, will expand Florida’s DNA database to include samples from persons arrested for felonies. The process is no different from the way Florida already stores and handles fingerprints from arrests. Like the current law on fingerprints, the DNA legislation has provisions for removal of the file when a person arrested for a felony meets certain requirements.

The database in its current form has been a great investment for our citizens; every month it generates an astounding 230 hits. These hits match an unknown DNA sample left at a crime scene to a known felon whose DNA is already on file, or links two or more unsolved crimes. It’s an invaluable investigative tool.

Including felony arrests means more samples in the DNA database and more crimes solved. It also means crimes will be solved faster and, most important, crimes will be prevented. Taking DNA at the first felony arrest ensures that DNA is taken from those offenders who evade felony conviction time and time again. It ensures that DNA from the first felony will be matched to that offender’s next crime, halting further victimization and saving lives.

Florida becomes the 21st state to take samples from felony arrestees. There is no other tool that can prevent violent crimes as efficiently and effectively as this. The Legislature got it right. Our citizens expect this level of protection. I think they deserve it.

Gerald Bailey, commissioner, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Tallahassee

I certainly deserved it: too bad it wasn’t there to help me in Florida when I needed it.  Worse, too bad it still doesn’t exist to protect victims in Georgia.

Justice Delayed + Tax Dollars Wasted = Justice System Starved

Apparently, while it may be hard to be a pimp, as the popular song goes, it isn’t particularly hard to be a defendant in a child molestation case:

DragonCon founder’s health might keep him from standing trial

Edward Kramer was charged in 2000 with molestation children

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Kramer, first arrested on Aug. 25, 2000, has been indicted on multiple felony charges of child molestation and aggravated child molestation.

He was under house arrest at home in Duluth until last year. Now he can travel but cannot have unsupervised contact with children under 16 and must report his whereabouts every week.

Heck, it isn’t even particularly hard to be a convicted offender — in this case, of a man whose victim was in his early twenties but is developmentally handicapped:

Hillsborough judge allows sex offender to go free during appeals process

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

TAMPA — Linda Petruzzi thought her nightmare was over when Senior Judge J. Rogers Padgett sentenced the man who molested her mentally disabled son to 15 years in prison.

But a day later, Richard Martin Chotiner walked out of jail.

The judge allowed the convicted sex offender to remain free on $50,000 bail while an appeals court considers his case, a process that typically takes months or years.

Chotiner, who was ordered to wear an electronic monitoring device for a time before his conviction, doesn’t have to wear anything to track his movements now.

The defense bar is derailing our justice system by forcing ever-broadening protections for defendants and convicts. By driving up the cost of getting cases to trial and then dealing with post-conviction appeals, they are stealing justice from the rest of us.

Many in the media are colluding in this crime. Inexplicably esteemed St. Petersburg Times columnist Daniel Ruth (whose crimes against the English language merit an entirely different set of felony charges) got away with a giant legal misrepresentation about the judge who let Chotiner walk after conviction, and the Times, which prides itself on possessing an entire institute of journalists ethics, didn’t even bother to correct him. Ruth wrote an editorial claiming, wrongly, that the judge was required by law to let Chotiner go free on bail after his conviction. Not true: the judge exercised his own “discretion” in releasing the Chotiner, and then he exercised his own discretion again in allowing him to remove his ankle monitor. But who cares? We’re talking about a convicted sex criminal here: empathy over facts, please.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Edward Kramer’s lawyers are playing a reprehensible game with the our tax dollars, trying to up the ante until the state can no longer justify the costs of trying Kramer on three counts of molestation:

An April 29 trial date was postponed Wednesday after Edward Kramer told Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Karen Beyers he was uncertain he could stay awake and alert enough to assist in his own defense. A spinal injury makes it difficult to sit, stand or breathe, and he is chronic pain, he said. . . .

He’s accused of sexually abusing three teenage boys. The mother of two alleged victims, a former friend of Kramer’s, has said Kramer dazzled the boys with action figures, sci-fi memorabilia and celebrity connections. The boys told police that Kramer took advantage of them during sleepovers at his house. . . .

Kramer’s defense attorneys, Edwin Marger and former Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr, said that in order for the case to go forward, they will have to prove Kramer is physically competent to stand trial.

“He’s been going through this now for almost nine years and he wants to get it over with,” Marger said.

What is the “this” that Kramer is “going through” that has taken almost nine years? Nothing more than his own lawyers’ machinations to postpone the trial by subverting our justice system.

Pretty strange behavior for a Libertarian. I guess I missed those chapters in Atlas Shrugged where Ayn Rand instructs her acolytes on how to relentlessly milk claims of physical disability in order to postpone fact-finding.

Make that permanently postpone. According to Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter, Kramer’s attorneys may indeed succeed in their efforts to derail justice:

“For all this talk about ‘I want a trial,’ Ed Kramer really proved today that he didn’t want a trial because the court made the accommodation for him,” Porter said. “The only trial he wants is the one he controls.”

I hear from many people that Bob Barr is a nice person. Nevertheless, when the issue was handicapped people who weren’t also accused child molesters, he opposed the Americans With Disabilities Act. And here are some oddly jarring quotes from then-Representative Barr’s 1988 efforts to push through the impeachment of President Clinton:

The rule of law finds its highest and best embodiment in the absolute, unshakeable right each of us has to walk into a courtroom and demand the righting of a wrong. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, what God you pray to, how large your bank account is, or what office you may hold. If you are an American citizen, no one can stand between you and your access to justice
No one, that is, except a libertarian representing an accused child molester by endlessly gaming the justice system, I suppose.

What Do You Call A Sex Offender Free on the Streets of Tampa Bay? Doctor. Or Nurse. Or Fodder for St. Petersburg Times Columnist Daniel Ruth to Crack Sex Jokes.

Maybe I’m just touchy because this neck of the woods is not far from where my own rapist traipsed in and out of prison for twenty-plus years, but what precisely does it take to get sitting judges (not to mention certain journalists) in Tampa Bay to take the threat posed by sexual predators seriously?  

First there’s Dr. Rory P. Doyle, who fled the Tampa Bay area after a judge permitted him to go free on bail after being charged with two counts of child molestation.  Astonishingly, Doyle is being treated to similarly indulgent judicial scrutiny in Ireland, where he has again been released to the streets while awaiting extradition hearings.  Then there’s nurse Richard Chotiner, who was released on bail pending an appeal that could take months, or years, after being convicted of lewd and lascivious battery of a mentally-disabled 23-year old.  Chotiner was released without electronic monitoring by Hillsborough Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett.  Releasing Chiotiner without considering public safety is especially egregious when you consider the details of the crime for which the nurse was convicted:

The man police say Chotiner abused has the learning ability of a fourth- or fifth-grader and suffers from neurofibromatosis, a disorder of the nervous system that causes tumors, skin changes and bone deformities, sex-crimes Detective Mark Sutkoff said.

Chotiner struck up a conversation with him April 28 at Adventure Island by recognizing the man’s condition, Sutkoff said. The 23-year-old lives with his family in Hillsborough County but has tried very hard to be independent and was alone that day, Sutkoff said.

Chotiner’s roommate, Justin Fernandez, said Wednesday that he drove Chotiner to the water park on April 28 because Chotiner had been charged with driving under the influence in January. He remembered Chotiner starting a conversation with the disabled man. “When he took off his shirt, Richard started talking like, ‘Oh, you have sores. I’m a nurse. I can make it better,'” Fernandez said.

Chotiner suggested the man come home with them to apply lotion to the sores, but the man declined, Fernandez said. However, the 23-year-old said he would return to the water park the following day.

The next day, Chotiner, who lives near Adventure Island and Busch Gardens, saw the 23-year-old walking through the neighborhood. He told Fernandez to give the 23-year-old and him a ride to Adventure Island, where they spent the day and then returned to Chotiner’s home at 8910 N. 39[th] St.

There, Chotiner instructed the 23-year-old to shower, then offered to “put medicinal lotion” on his “cysts” in a bedroom, according to a criminal report affidavit. Chotiner held the other man down, fondled him and performed a sex act on him, the affidavit said.

Fernandez said he was outside at the time and did not know what occurred. Chotiner told him to drive the 23-year-old to a bus stop outside Tampa, where he could meet his mother and go home. As the 23-year-old left, Fernandez said, “Richard grabbed his right shoulder and gave him a kiss on the head.”

Sutkoff said the 23-year-old immediately reported what happened. He directed police to the area where Chotiner lived but could not pinpoint the house. Investigation through Adventure Island helped identify Chotiner, said Sutkoff, who did not elaborate.

Remember, Chotiner was convicted.  These aren’t “allegations.”

You have to wonder about a middle-aged man who goes trolling for young men at an amusement park, a man with a medical license who uses his status as a nurse to lure a mentally disabled person half his age back to his apartment.  Most people, I imagine, would look at this case and recoil at the thought that we have a criminal justice system that still permits people to walk free after being convicted of a crime like this.

Most people, but not everyone.  “Humor columnist” Daniel Ruth of the St. Petersburg Times looked at this case and found it, and the protests against releasing Chotiner — well, he found them amusing.  Funny stuff, forcing yourself sexually on a mentally handicapped person.  Ruth would probably whine that it wasn’t the actual sexual assault that he was targeting with the following “wit,” but merely the protests mounted by television host Bill O’Reilly of Fox News.  But that defense falls short when you read what Ruth actually committed to the page — a column filled with sexual innuendo and sexual punch-lines about a tragic sexual assault: 

O’Reilly . . . got his hoop skirt in a wad over a decision by Hillsborough Senior Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett to allow Richard Martin Chotiner, who was convicted of lewd and lascivious battery on a 23-year-old mentally challenged man, to remain free on $50,000 bail pending the outcome of an appeal. . .

But Padgett didn’t release Chotiner because, well, he was feeling frisky that day . . .

Interestingly enough, while Bill O’Reilly was getting more lathered up than Old Yeller over Padgett’s reluctance to answer questions about his ruling, the Fluster News anchor has hardly been forthcoming in releasing details of his own 2004 sealed out-of-court settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit brought against him by a former employee[,] Andrea Mackris.

The allegations included some pretty salacious stuff, including a claim by Mackris that in a woozy late-night phone call O’Reilly, who loves to promote himself as a family man, told her he wanted to do the “falafel” thing with her.

Hmmm, wanting to commit a sex act with a Middle Eastern concoction of fried chickpeas? How kinky, in a Jacques Pepin kind of way.

In a column about the sexual assault of a mentally disabled man, Ruth doesn’t see anything wrong with cracking jokes about food and sex.  In a state littered with the dead bodies of children killed by repeat offenders who were released thanks to profound flaws in our judicial system, Daniel Ruth only finds humor in the wounded outrage of people who are rising up to say “enough is enough.”  

What a proud day for journalism at the St. Petersburg Times.

***

Instead of publishing this sick drivel, imagine what it would look like if the Times used the space wasted on Ruth’s column to fairly consider the criticism of Judge Padgett’s decision to release Chotiner without electronic monitoring.  Here’s an article from 1981 that casts Judge Padgett and the Chotiner case in an interesting light.  Of course, it took me upwards of sixty seconds to find this on Google:

St. Petersburg Times, December 19, 1981

Tampa Library Foe Gets Jail Term on Sex Charge

John F. “Jack” Gregorio, former head of a group campaigning against sex education books in Tampa public libraries, was sentenced to a year in county jail and ten years probation Friday for sexually molesting two children.  Gregorio, 46, pleaded no contest Oct. 12 to charges of lewd and lascivious behavior on an 8-year-old girl and sexual battery of a 17-year old boy.  The plea was part of an agreement in which the state agreed to seek no more than one year in jail.  Gregorio has continued to maintain his innocence and Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett said Friday that [the refusal to admit guilt] contributed most to his decision to impose the maximum sentence. Padgett said he will require Gregorio to see a psychiatrist as a condition of his probation but said he doubted it would help. Gregorio was arrested seven days after he was pictured in a newspaper last April carrying a placard and leading an anti-book campaign.

Interesting stuff (once you set aside the Times’ focus on the book-banning, the crimes of a sexual predator being more significant than the hypocrisies of a sexual predator).  What you find in this article from 1981 is something not discussed much in newspapers today: an argument supporting the legal reforms that eventually enabled and mandated judges to send sex offenders away for more than token sentences, as well as a fascinating perspective on Judge Padgett himself.

In 1981, Padgett railed against the restraints placed on him when it came to dealing with this particular sexual offender.  He was moved to speak out against a sentence that he viewed as too short for the crimes. He accurately questioned the usefulness of therapeutic interventions in preventing sex crime.  

Between 1981 and today, state legislators revised the Code of Florida so that child molesters, and others, could no longer walk away with a slap on the wrist, because they were walking away with a slap on the wrist.  They passed “truth in sentencing” laws to slow revolving prison doors, because offenders were only serving a fraction of their sentences.  These improvements had to be written into the legal code because, as Daniel Ruth histrionically and self-righteously reminds us, judges are only the interpreters of law as it is written.  They also had to be written into the code because many judges did not follow the laws as written, but that’s another story.  

Today, the Times, and others (who should be covering both sides of the issue, but don’t) now beat the drums exclusively for rolling back the sentencing reforms of the last twenty years.  Ignoring the many lessons of the past contained in their own pages, they viewing sentencing narrowly through a prism of preconceptions, namely:

  • Minimum mandatory sentences are innately cruel and unusual, and we embarked on imposing them only because politicians wanted to appear tough on crime, not because crime and recidivism are problems. 
  • Minimum mandatory sentences are the cause of prison overcrowding, which places America tragically ahead of other countries in the numbers of incarcerated people, which is a terrible reflection on our society, far more terrible than the high crime rates which are the actual cause of every individual incarceration, which will go unmentioned in the reporting.  See, the Pew Report, et al.
  • In order to regain our stature in the eyes of the world, we must reduce our incarceration rates at any cost, including the cost of letting violent offenders go free to victimize more innocent people.
  • Alternative sentencing, like counseling, is the ideal solution for these problems.

It’s very much worth remembering Judge Padgett’s frustrated effort to protect the public from a sexual predator twenty-eight years ago, when he could only sentence him to one year behind bars.  What type of sentence would Richard Martin Chotiner have received back then, before minimum mandatories put some restrictions on such pleas?  Do we really want to go back to those days?        

 

Outrage of the Week: Just Not Putting the B******s Away

For years, I’ve kept a file inelegantly titled “Just Not Putting the B******s Away.”  Unfortunately, it is a thick file.  Here is the latest entry.

The St. Petersburg Times reported this morning that fugitive Tampa Bay area physician Rory P. Doyle has surfaced in Ireland, where he fled after being permitted to bail out on a double child-molestation charge in Florida in 2001.  Dr. Doyle somehow obtained permission to re-register to practice medicine in Ireland under his own name and then somehow received permission to change his name to Dr. David West.  In addition to the largesse demonstrated by these serial “benefits of the doubt,” an Irish judge now refuses to imprison him prior to his extradition to the United States.  

So judges in two countries have allowed Doyle to walk free despite his uncanny resemblance to the illustration accompanying the term “flight risk.”  Worse, when Doyle was brought up before the Irish Medical Board in October of last year on new charges of profession misconduct, it was discovered that he was a fugitive wanted for child molestation in the United States and had changed his name to conceal his crimes; yet the Board agreed to allow him to continue practicing medicine so long as he agreed “not to treat children in his practice and only to perform cosmetic surgery.”  As children are not big purchasers of Botox, this was hardly an onerous restriction (the Board roused from its slumbers and suspended Dr. Doyle’s license only last week). 

One must not treat Dr. Doyle/Dr. West too harshly, it is felt.  The Irish Times, in reporting this story, carefully characterizes Doyle’s flight to Ireland as an “alleged” event:

AN IRISH doctor who re- registered to practise medicine here just months before he allegedly jumped bail in Florida on child sex assault charges . . .

Even Doyle himself does not appear to be disputing that he is the Dr. Doyle who fled the United States, registered as Doyle with the Irish Medical Board, and then changed his name.  Yet one must never impugn the merely accused, even if the cost is impugning the victims.  The verbal tic of affixing the term “alleged” to the description of any person’s crime has spread to include those already convicted of crimes, and even to those who readily admit they are guilty.     

Disapproval, however mild, is apparently a far worse transgression than crime itself, as the Medical Board demonstrated in December when they deemed the standards of their profession flexible enough to embrace a known fugitive from the law and accused child molester who used the Irish courts to conceal his identity from people seeking medical care from him.  

The judge who is currently allowing Doyle to remain free pending extradition for the crime of fleeing the last time a judge let him remain free is similarly guilty of practicing a pathological approbation of the accused.  

Or perhaps I should say allegedly guilty, as no-one is ever truly guilty of anything anymore.