This crime has brought attention back again to how registered sex offenders are monitored, but for me the biggest issues are how we view sex criminals before they are convicted the first time and how reports of non-fatal attacks are viewed by the police, the prosecutors and the public.
From the AP:
[John Albert Gardner III] of Lake Elsinore pleaded guilty in May 2000 to molesting a 13-year-old female neighbor. Prosecutors said he lured the victim to his home with an offer to watch "Patch Adams," a 1998 movie starring Robin Williams. The girl was beaten before escaping and running to a neighbor.First, this case highlights that viewing stranger rapists/murderers as a separate group from acquaintance sex criminals is a dangerous misassumption. This case needs to be remembered each time someone describes all non-stranger sex offenders as non-dangerous sex offenders.
Gardner served five years in prison after prosecutors rejected a psychiatrist's advice to seek stiffer punishment, court documents state.
Prosecutors said in 2000 that Gardner's lack of a significant prior criminal record justified less than the maximum sentence. They also said they wanted to "spare the victim the trauma of testifying."
With this popular narrative which creates a false binary of sex offenders it should be no surprise when prosecutors don't consider this connection until it is too late.
Some sex offenders feel entitled and are immune to the pain they cause while for other sex offenders the pain they inflict is a primary payoff. The fact that Gardner beat the girl he lured into his home should be a red flag.
When this beating is combined with her escaping rather than her having been let go, there is no way to know if that first charged crime wasn't intended to be a sexually motivated murder.
If Gardner had snatched this girl off the street, as some people suspect he might have done to Amber Dubois last year, rather than luring her in as a trustworthy neighbor then the prosecutors might have seen the beating in a different light. But the only real difference was the strategy in getting a target under his control.
We must remember that a deceptive strategy doesn't make someone less dangerous. Yet again and again I see people dismiss successful deception as a reason to shift the responsibility onto the victim and possibly to refuse to convict someone who has been proven guilty.
This case also needs to be remembered when people claim that those convicted of statutory sex crimes are non-dangerous offenders. Plea deals for those accused of forcible rape of an underage child may result in only a statutory conviction.
The prosecutors failed even if their decision to accept a plea deal was valid not only to "spare the victim" but because a jury might not believe the victim and might acquit a guilty man. Under the plea deal, Gardner faced a maximum sentence of 11 years but the prosecutors only recommended a sentence of 6 years. This is where the prosecution failed.
The psychiatrist's assessment of Gardner's risk of reoffending was trumped by Gardner's lack of criminal record. The fact that a particular sentence was similar to other cases isn't a good enough justification.
Not only could those prosecutors do better, our entire criminal justice system and our entire society can do better at preventing sexual violence. To prevent the most extreme sex crimes we must be dedicated to preventing the sex crimes which many people currently shrug off.
The consensual sexual model of males as pursuer and females as pursued which many people accept as normal is a model which contains the roots of crimes which horrify everyone since there is dangerously fine line between this model and the model of predator and prey.