[...] Ohio mother Margie Slagle is one of a growing group of critics who say these laws unfairly lump lesser offenders in with the worst criminals — and that they may actually be backfiring.While I think there is a problem with making all sex offenders register because of the sheer number of sex offenders in this country who don't have patterns which make them a higher risk to turn into murderers than the multitude of unconvicted sex offenders, I have a real problem with how some people decide who the lesser offenders are.
Rather than deciding who may turn into a rapist/murderer based on the past physical violence used by the sex offender, it seems like many people are classifying offenders based on judgments about the sex offenders' victims.
This is especially tricky when so many sex crimes involve plea deals where the crime committed is far worse than the crime listed on the sex offender's record. If the victim is underage and considered by the prosecution as an unreliable witness, a dangerously coercive and abusive offender might be convicted only of statutory rape.
Slagle was 40 and a divorced mother of three and when she decided to go to law school. Her first case as a law student shocked her: She defended a sex offender. "As a mom, I was terrified of sex offenders — to me, (that) means child molesters," she told Early Show national correspondent Tracy Smith.This is so obviously ignorant that I have a hard time viewing this woman as anyone who should be seen as any type of an expert on sex offender laws. That she is speaking from the POV of a defense attorney means she is in the habit of trying to paint her clients in the best possible light even if that light is artificial.
But the biggest surprise came after Slagle met 33-year-old Dion Burge, a registered sex offender — and found herself vigorously taking up his cause. "He was not a child molester," Slagle said. "He had consensual sex with a woman who was not old enough to consent — and that was a crime."If my rapist boyfriend had been investigated by the police it would have been for statutory rape since I was 15 and he was 19. We never had consensual sex, but no jury back then would have convicted him of "real" rape if the police had believed me. If he had been charged and convicted of statutory rape, many people would look at his record and say he wasn't a real rapist. He would have been seen as someone who simply had gotten busted for having consensual sex.
I've seen several cases make it into the news where the victim of so-called victimless sex crimes reported being raped. Yet many people refuse to accept the victim's account that the sex crime was in fact real rape.
But what Slagle calls a "woman" was a teenage girl nearly a decade younger than Burge. The girl was living by herself, and Burge says he thought she was 18. He pleaded guilty to corruption of a minor and served a year in prison. He registers every year as a sex offender. It was his only offense.Actually, to be technically correct it was his only conviction. This lawyer and the public have no way of knowing if it was in fact his only offense or if he is lying about the nature of the crime that makes him a sex offender.
"He's a great father," Slagle said. "He loves children. It's ridiculous to lump him in with as a child molester and as a threat to the community."This statement is deeply troubling since some very dangerous sex offenders who also murder their victims are NOT child molesters in a stereotypical sense and may never mistreat their children. Laws need to be based on proven facts not stereotypes which say that only obviously monsters commit monsterous crimes.
A sex offender who kidnaps a young woman, rapes her, assaults her and leaves her for dead (but who doesn't succeed in killing her) is a threat. There is one of these who is scheduled for release in my area later this year and to even imply that he isn't a real sex offender because he isn't a child molester is appalling.
FYI this sex offender was convicted of murder while still a child. Will this defense attorney volunteer to have him move into her neighborhood because he isn't one of those dangerous child molesters? Somehow I doubt it.
However, if Slagle is successful in limiting registered sex offenders to child molesters she may never know if a man like this is her neighbor until someone is raped or killed.
Frankly, I believe that men like the one set to be released in my area are too great of a risk to be safely released under any circumstances or monitoring system. Requiring him to live beyond a set distance from certain facilities protects nobody. Civil commitment is often a lousy system in various ways, but for some sex offenders it's a needed lousy system until we have something better.
Rather than setting artificial limits on all registered sex offenders, we need to figure out how to get our criminal justice system to recognize those sex offenders who are unquestionably a danger the moment they are released and have sentencing guidelines in place which matches the true severity of the crime and the ongoing risk.
Some great solutions may seem to be soft on crime because they don't rely on tough minimum sentences or may include options that don't seem to be as tough as prison even when felons report prison being the easier option.
For those sex offenders who haven't exhibited the most extreme behavior, the restrictions need to match the crime pattern to have any hope of being effective and not a huge taxpayer drain with no matching improvement in public safety.
If a prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant who snatched a victim intended to rape, murder and dispose of the body, that needs to be reflected in the sentence. The key is to understand the sum of what can be proven and if that means adding a criminal statute which covers the scope of the actions taken by the most dangerous rapists who didn't succeed in all of their plans, so be it.
What we shouldn't do is treat a non-physical-contact flasher the same way we treat a rapist who has all the material and instructions for dismembering another human being.
Technorati tags: rape crime politics sexual violence sexual assault feminism