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“The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”     Thomas Sowell

January 20, 2007

More Mandatory Minimums Madness: The “Sexual Predator” Edition

by Stephen Littau

Cross posted at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds

I have written in the past about the insanity of mandatory minimum sentencing laws on at least two occasions (here, and here). In my previous posts, the minimum sentencing guidelines had to do with the war on drugs. In this latest outrage however, this mandatory minimum sentence has to do with “aggravated child molesting.”

In theory, mandatory minimum sentencing for certain crimes seems like a great idea. The problem with such a “one size fits all” approach is it gives judges absolutely no discretion when it comes to particular cases. No matter how well written or intentioned a law may be, there are always going to be cases where the application of the law is simply unjust. The case of Genarlow Wilson is a perfect example of what I mean.

From The New York Times article “Georgia Man Fights Conviction as Molester”

[Genarlow Wilson] was sentenced to 10 years in prison without parole for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl at a New Year’s Eve party, an offense that constituted aggravated child molesting, even though Mr. Wilson himself was only 17.

[?]

Disturbed by Mr. Wilson’s conviction, the Legislature changed the law in March to ensure that most sex between teenagers be treated as a misdemeanor. But the State Supreme Court said legislators had chosen not to make the law retroactive.

[?]

Even more confounding, at the time of Mr. Wilson?s offense, a so-called “Romeo and Juliet” exception had already been made for sexual intercourse between teenagers. “Had Genarlow had intercourse with this girl, had he gotten her pregnant, he could only have been charged with a misdemeanor and punished up to 12 months,”? said Brenda Joy Bernstein, Mr. Wilson’s lawyer.

So let me get this straight: Genarlow Wilson is 17 and engages in oral sex with a girl who is 2 years younger than he is. At the age of 15, the girl is not at the legal age of consent in Georgia. However, had the two had “consensual” sex instead of oral sex, Wilson would have been charged with a misdemeanor offense carrying a maximum sentence 1 year but because they didn’t go all the way, Wilson is facing an 11 year sentence and will not be eligible for parole until after he has served 10 years. OR if Wilson chooses, he can have his sentence reduced to 5 to 7 years with a possibility of parole if he agrees to register as a sex offender.

So why won’t Wilson take the deal? According to the aforementioned article, Wilson is quoted as saying the following:

“Even after serving time in prison, I would have to register as a sex offender wherever I lived and if I applied for a job for the rest of my life, all for participating in a consensual sex act with a girl just two years younger than me,” he told a reporter for Atlanta magazine last year, adding that he would not even be able to move back in with his mother because he has an 8-year-old sister. “It’s a lifelong sentence in itself. I am not a child molester.”

There is no question that Wilson used poor judgment in engaging in oral sex with a girl who was under the age of consent. But he is quite right in making a distinction between a child molester and a couple of horny teenagers. When I think of the term “child molester” I tend to think of an adult (usually middle-aged) having inappropriate contact with a prepubescent child. These are the real sexual predators who should be put away possibly forever.

It seems to me that there needs to be a serious discussion about where exactly the line should be drawn. Clearly, children should be safe from predators but at what point is a child an adolescent of an age where he or she can be held responsible for his or her choices? I believe there should be some sort of sliding scale taking into consideration the ages of the parties involved. Is an 18 year old having sex or sexual contact with 17 year old molestation, regardless of the age of consent? I think not! What about a 30 year old with a 17 year old? I tend to think so!

There seems to be no clear answers; what might seem reasonable to me might not seem reasonable to you. When a “zero tolerance” policy in the form of mandatory minimum sentences is in play, there can be no thoughtful discussions in the jury room. It’s all or nothing.

Genarlow Wilson has served nearly 2 years for this offense. Does he really need to serve another 8 to teach him a lesson? Alternatively, should he be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life? The answer to both of these questions depend on whether or not one believes that Genarlow Wilson is a threat to children based on his actions as A 17 YEAR OLD WITH A GIRL WHO WAS ONLY 2 YEARS YOUNGER THAN HIM. If you ask me, he has already done enough time.

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12 Comments

  1. Links:
    * http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/crimoff.htm
    * http://sexoffenderinfo.pbwiki.com
    * http://sexoffenderissues.blogspot.com/
    * http://abcnews.go.com/2020/LegalCenter/story?id=2785054&page=1
    * http://www.justice4matt.com/
    * http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070118/METRO/701180425/1003

    * It should be MANDATORY that anyone in prison get therapy, and out of prison, if needed. Therapy does work. If you just lock them up, when they get out, they will be worse off. Therapy teaches people how to not act out and help, regardless of what the general public thinks. Just ask a therpist.

    * We need to STOP this hysteria and get sex offenders the help they need.

    * You can pass all the laws you want but without therapy and this “mob” mentality will not solve anything!

    * I am sick of politicians using children to get their laws passed! Who would want to vote against anything that is “for the children”?

    * If the sex offender laws are kept, why discriminate? I DEMAND WE HAVE A CRIMINAL HISTORY REGISTRY THAT IS ACCESSIBLE VIA THE INTERNET FOR ANYONE WITH A CRIMINAL HISTORY!!

    * “Buffer Zones” are a false sense of security!

    * “Buffer Zones” are banishing people from their town, state, and possibly the country!

    * “Buffer Zones” create homelessness, which costs society lost productivity, individual dignity, and creates additional problems for enforcing any accurate registry!

    * “Buffer Zones” do nothing, except banish! It could be 50 miles and if someone wanted to re-offend, they’d just get in a car and drive!

    * These laws protect nobody!

    * “Stranger Danger” is a smoke screen & hype! Most child sexual offenses occur by someone the child knows, like a family member or close friend!

    * These laws are being passed by politicians using sex offenders as scape goats, for votes!

    * Registries do NOT protect anyone or prevent crimes!

    * Registries are punishing sex offenders as well as their families and children, and opening them up to vigilantism. DON’T THE FAMILIES AND CHILDREN OF SEX OFFENDERS COUNT? They are suppose to be “for the children”, right?

    * Registries are NOT being updated in a timely fashion, so the public is getting false information! How is this helping the public or protecting them when they cannot rely on them?

    * Registries are putting families and children of sex offenders in a public position to be socially outcast and discriminated against with regard to employment, housing, schooling, etc!

    * About 90% of the people on the registry are NOT sexual predators or pedophiles that these laws were for in the first place!

    * These laws cost millions, if not billions to enforce, and they cause prison over-population, which is already a problem, especially in California! AND TAX PAYERS PAY FOR ALL THIS!

    * GPS does not prevent sexual crimes! Another false sense of security which cost tons of money! Plus they are suppose to pay for this, which will eventually go homeless. MAKE THE TAX PAYERS WHO WANT THESE LAWS TO PAY FOR THEM!

    * These laws cause sex offenders to go underground and into hiding, due to the strict nature of the laws! How is this protecting anyone?

    * These laws are all abount money for law enforcement and votes for politicians. Prison is a business! Politicians are salaried and want elected/re-elected! Law enforcement get paid for people in jails, prisons or on the registry!

    * These laws blatantly disregard the United States constitutional rights of all citizens! (i.e. ex-post facto, due process & others)

    * These laws are cruel and unusual punishment! A sex offender cannot go to a fast food restaurant which has a playground! Why? They have just as must of a right as you to get a burger! Plus they cannot go anywhere kids congregate, which is endless (i.e. Amusement parks, Movie theaters, the list is endless)

    * Sex offenders can go to church, but must leave immediately afterwards. If a sex offender owns a business and someone decides to put a church or school next door, they have to now sell their business and move. This is not right, move the church or school, the sex offender was there first!

    * These laws continue to punish people even after a sentence has been served, and they are trying to get on with their lives! (i.e. ex-post facto)

    * These laws are driven by fear-mongering, opportunistic politicians and will do nothing to actually protect children!

    * There are over one million women and children whose lives are inter-twined with a sex offender in the United Stated. They should matter too!

    * Follow the money trail, these laws are conveyor-belt laws to benefit law enforcement! They get paid for the number of people in jail, prison or on the registry!

    * They are currently a one-size-fits all for sex offenders! Not all sex offenders are predators or pedophiles that these laws are suppose to be for anyway!

    * They are modern day witch hunts and a scarlett letter!

    * If Sex Offenders are re-offending, why does the registries grow each day? Because new people are being added daily for stuff like “public urination”, “mooning”, “concensual sex”, “young children playing ‘Doctor’” and various other minor offenses that we need not worry about. We need to worry about predators & pedophiles!

    * Now they are trying to make it a law that a sex offender, if they have kids, cannot “take a picture” of anyone under 18. This is totally stupid! Can’t even take Christmas pictures, birthday pictures, etc!

    * Also, because a sex offender owns a business in town, many people are trying to get the business shut down! The sex offender had the business for awhile. If you don’t like it, MOVE!!!!

    * The Nazi’ did this back when Hitler was in power, with the Jews, Turks, etc.

    * The thing about pedophiles not being able to take pictures of kids is stupid. You’d better shred any pictures you have of your kids when they were babies, like diaper changing, baths, etc.

    Comment by ZMan — January 20, 2007 @ 4:54 pm
  2. It’s legislative silliness like this that makes so-called progressives look like sages.

    Comment by Robert — January 20, 2007 @ 5:17 pm
  3. This is just one of the many examples of how Nixon’s war on crime has turned into a war on the American people.
    I believe all state legislatures and the Federal government should be mandated to remove 2 useless laws from the books for every new one they pass. There are so many laws now that the “law abiding citizen” is a thing of the past.

    Comment by Cool Rich — January 20, 2007 @ 7:03 pm
  4. testing testing I just tried to post something but I don’t see it. Is there a delay for processing? I tried to post a link to another site about this same subject.

    Comment by frank — January 21, 2007 @ 1:01 am
  5. Yes, I see my testing testing above but the first one with the link I don’t see. I’ll try to post the link again. This rime I’ll remove the “http:” and see if it will post.

    //forums.goupstate.com/groupee/forums?

    Comment by frank — January 21, 2007 @ 1:08 am
  6. look for this topic once you get to the site listed above

    “General Assembly needs to remove provisions that undermine Jessica’s Law”

    Comment by frank — January 21, 2007 @ 1:31 am
  7. I agree with the comments mentioned above and it appears to be a sickness in our Government on all issues not just sex offender issues.

    A web site that speaks the truth is below.

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/so_solutions/

    Comment by John Wilson — January 21, 2007 @ 8:39 am
  8. I am the mother of a sex offender that was just sentenced to 17 years for sending and receiving child pronography and for talking to a 15 year old in a chat room using inapporiate conversation. The pictures he received were of all ages- 5 to 17 and my son is legally blind. The Judge was a federal judge and had just been appointed to the 4th circut court in Viginia – Federal. He hates sex offenders of any type or level and has used my son as an example. A man just killed someone in a robbery and he got 8 years for manslaughter. Is this fair? My son will be on probation for 5 years, have drug testing and have to have counseling at his expense the whole 5 years. He will have to register as a sex offender. He will have a h-ll of a time getting a job once he gets out with three strikes against him, legally blind, felony, and sex offender. How do they expect these inmates to rejoin society if they punish them for the rest of their lives. Why don’t alcoholics have to register, and drug dealers, murders, pimps, etc.? What’s the difference? There is something wrong with this picture. Why not let them make money to pay taxes and not have our taxes have to pay to take care ofthem? The word “Children” is being used as a weapon to punish and not heal. We are not a forgiving Society and what is the purpose of spending all this money on putting someone in prison and then have take care and monitor them forever.? Where does it end?

    Comment by Shirley STacey — January 21, 2007 @ 12:46 pm
  9. Wow, I can see I really opened a can of worms here! While my post dealt with the one extreme, some of these comments seem to represent the other extreme. I don’t want to be misunderstood here but I believe those who sexually abuse children should do hard time; as much or more so than a murderer. I don’t have any sympathy for individuals who make or posess child pornography–particularly when dealing with children as young as 5 (as Shirley mentioned).

    My original post deals with a moral grey area. I see NO grey areas when dealing with very young (pre pubecent) children. Teenagers having sexual contact with each other is very different than an adult exploiting children.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — January 21, 2007 @ 11:22 pm
  10. This whole mandatory sentencing issue in some ways is a moot one. Consider this. When a person is arrested the prosecutors determine the charges. Some charges carry this mandatory sentencing thing and others do not. When the political climate says it looks good to show some strenght then the arrestee gets the hammer.
    But lets look at a lot of times when arrestees have been charged with a violation that the actual facts of the case appear to merit a much harsher charge. It is most apparant when those persons are possesors of political influence, such as say politicans. In the case of dirty law enforcement it seems to be done when there is a possibility of civil suits aagainst a governmental authority. We could show examples all day long. Does the word “clout” seem like a good adjective?
    We also have Federal “country club” prisons and “day trips” etc.
    It seems the entire judicial system is about as corrupt as the Federal Income Tax laws.

    Comment by marvin — January 22, 2007 @ 5:14 am
  11. When Americans are so ruled by hate and jealousy that they want to see corrupt CEO’s and 17 boys who like oral sex sent to jail for decades, maybe it is time for America to go away.

    Comment by Bob Roberts — January 22, 2007 @ 7:12 am
  12. I have always thought of zero tolerance type things as really zero common sense. To put Mr. Wilson in the same category as someone who violently rapes someone is absolutely insane. It’s not the same type of crime at all. In fact, having consensual sex with someone 2 years younger isn’t so much a crime as it is poor judgment. But I do have a comment about some things I read. There are some violent sexual predators who would never benefit from the most intense therapy lasting decades and they need to be put away forever to protect society. Also I’d like to add something unrelated. Corrupt CEO’s who cause people to lose their entire life savings are some of the worst criminals we have. Of course, not on par with violent criminals but losing your life savings is very devastating.

    Comment by Debbie — February 4, 2007 @ 7:37 pm

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