The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil,
but because of those who look on and do nothing.

~~~ Albert Einstein

Friday, July 11, 2008

Explaining the difference...

There are sex offenders who pose a danger to society. And I've openly praised efforts to cast them as far away from the rest of us as possible. But at the same time, I am often teetering on the edge of annoyance over the laws that seem to be sweeping in people who clearly aren't any sort of danger.

Rarely do I get to present my thoughts on the matter in cases that involve women- both coming from opposite ends of the spectrum.

Brenda K. Baillargeon is 40 and a former teacher. She is in trouble for having multiple sexual encounters with a 16 year old boy. Her refusal to follow judges orders to remain away from the victim has lead to her being banished from the city in which they both lived. Completely justified.

A judge ordered Brenda K. Baillargeon, 40, out of Amery for the next 15 years after she repeatedly violated court orders to stay away from the now 17-year-old boy.

Polk County District Attorney Daniel Steffen said the sentence was appropriate given that Baillargeon had contacted the teen at his home, work and elsewhere in the village of about 2,800.

Predator, who despite telling the court she was "trying to be remorseful" by apologizing to the victims family when she sees them in public.

Baillargeon had sex with the teen at his home, his grandfather's cabin, on a bench at a nearby park and at her cabin near Amery over the course of seven months, Steffen said. She also took the boy on trips and sneaked into his home in the early morning hours for sex, court records said.

Remorseful.. I'd say only because she was caught. This woman still stalks her victim, making no effort to let the child go on with his life, or allow his parents a moment of peace of mind.

That is someone we want on the list.

Not so with the case of Wendy Whitaker. She's on the Atlanta sex offender list because when she was 17, she had oral sex with a 15 year old boy. Since then, the now 28 year old has married, bought a house and followed every requirement of Georgia's registration laws. This is merely a case of Romeo and Juliet, only this time around Juliet was a few years older than Romeo.

Folks, teenagers are going to have sex. Unless you plan on locking them all in their rooms until they hit that magic number 18- it's just going to be something that they engage in. Punishing someone because their object of affection was 2 years younger- is just senseless. Perhaps Whitaker didn't use the best judgment during the heat of passion, but then she was barely mature enough to to begin with. Continuing to act as if she is the next Joseph Duncan or John Couey is not only pointless and tragic- but it's a waste of tax payer funds, and a cloud of smoke that fogs up the attention that should be saved for the real predators.

Sadly, Atlanta doesn't feel this way, and they now are forcing her to move yet again, only this time it's from the home that she's lived in with her husband for years. Because, despite the overturning of the Georgia law which would have made offenders to leave homes they live in- she's stuck in a anti loophole. Her name wasn't on the deed until a year after the deadline. Despite law saying that marital property is shared, the fact that she lived in the home with her husband whose name HAS been on the deed since January 2006- just months prior to the cut off.

S.B. 1 maintains the residency restrictions but says they cannot be enforced against offenders who bought homes before July 1, 2006.

This week, Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle, after finding Whitaker's name was placed on the deed in 2007, ordered her to move within 48 hours.

Whitaker said Friday she has had ownership rights to the home, even if her name was not on the deed. "We've been married eight years, and everything we have we have together," she said.

Whitaker's lawyers asked Whittle to not enforce the residency restrictions against the woman while the federal suit is pending. The sheriff agreed. The matter is now pending before U.S. District Court Judge Clarence Cooper, who is overseeing the federal case.

But on Thursday, the state Attorney General's Office filed a motion stating that if Whitaker actually has a property interest in the home, she should seek relief from being evicted in the state courts, not the federal court, the motion said.

"Assuming there is actual enforcement of an existing provision of the sex offender statute, [its] to protect the most innocent of victims, Georgia's children," the motion added. "There is indisputable evidence that convicted sex offenders have a propensity to re-offend."

Yes, evidence that sex offenders re offend. But- really, is a 17 year old having sex with her 15 year old boyfriend really what most of us would want defined as a sexual offender? Can we really justify putting "Juliet" on the same list as Couey? Can we really look and honestly say that these kids having consensual sex is as huge of a danger to society as Joseph Duncan?

I don't think so. And, with three young kids of my own that will one day grow into teenagers- I'm rather concerned for the outcome of our own refusal to use common sense before writing laws and punishing children.