Prosecutorial Discretion

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

More victims of the unintended consequences of laws named after dead people:

Call it bullying or call it horseplay. Either way, a state appellate court panel says roughhousing with a sexual connotation by a pair of 14-year-old Somerset County boys was a crime that requires them to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.

In a decision handed down Monday, the three-judge panel acknowledged the severity of its decision, but said it was bound to uphold the law.

“We are keenly aware that our decision may have profound lifelong ramifications for these two boys as well as others similarly situated,” Judge Jose Fuentes wrote.

One of the boys, whose case went to trial, said he had sat on the faces of a pair of 12-year-old schoolmates with his bare buttocks in November 2008 “cause I thought it was funny and I was trying to get my friends to laugh,” he told a family court judge.

But an act is considered criminal sexual contact if it is done for sexual gratification or to degrade or humiliate the victim, and punishable by lifetime registration — even for juveniles — under Megan’s Law, which requires a person convicted of a sex crime against a child to notify police of changes of address or employment.

The trial judge concluded the teenager intended to humiliate or degrade his victims and found him guilty of criminal sexual contact. The second teenager who was implicated pleaded guilty to criminal sexual contact and received the same penalty . . .

The prosecutor who charged these kids ought to lose his job.


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102 Responses to “Prosecutorial Discretion”

  1. #1 |  homeboy | 

    @ #100, John Markley

    “A useless distinction- offenders “somehow capable of recidivism” encompasses anyone who has been convicted of any crime, sexual or otherwise, unless they’ve subsequently suffered some disability that makes the crime physically impossible.”

    Not a useless distinction at all. The point being made was that when one speaks of reforming sex offenders, one must recognize that the useful subjects of such reform are recidivist offenders. If someone is not poised to repeat an offense, reform is mooted as an issue. Thus, the platform you advance, namely, that sex offender registries are bad because they destroy the possibility of reform, is born on the backs of those who would be recidivists. Since recidivist sex offenders have been shown to be distinctly difficult and intractably resistant to reform with or without registries, I don’t find the loss of reform opportunities to be particularly compelling in this analysis.

    “I said “productive members of society,” which encompasses more than not committing sex crimes”

    Actually, you wrote, “…destroy nearly any chance of offenders eventually being reformed into productive members of society…” You directly linked the potential productivity to the reform of sex offenders. I agree, full reform may include elements other than simply not committing sex crimes, but that still comprises its most basic, necessary, and fundamental element.

    “Concerning due process: The restrictions placed on people on the registry can be changed and added to by state governments.”

    As is the case with every form of state regulation of felons. Regulations restricting certain categories of felons from various forms of employment (securities sales, armed security positions, public trusteeship, etc.), property ownership, and other lifestyle elements may also be changed or added to by state governments. If your argument were valid, virtually all forms of post-conviction regulation would be found to violate due process rights. I don’t believe this is the case, and don’t find this argument compelling either.

    Like you, I oppose sex offender registries on a number of grounds. My hope is that we would all confine ourselves to deploying arguments that are rock solid and provide little (if any) latitude for reasonable dispute.

  2. #2 |  Counterfeit Comfort « The Honest Courtesan | 

    […] sex-offender registries a number of times, most recently on July 21st in reference to this story (as featured on The Agitator).  Take a close look at the first response to Skenazy’s column, then #42 and #55 on The […]