Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sex Offenders - Is It "One Size Fits All"?

I couldn't decide whether this should be written or not.  This could be a very divisive issue.  The question, posed by Matt Lauer on the Today Show and myself, is an important one.  Personally, I think we might have passed this legislation, years ago, with what I like to refer to as the, "Ready, Fire, Aim," mentality.  We passed the laws, however we didn't think about the, "What if?" scenarios.  Today's case in point - the story of 34-year old Frank Rodriguez in Texas.  Here's the short story that you can use to base your initial decision:  Frank had sex with a girl that was 15-years old when he was 19.  The age of consent (as this was consensual) in Texas is 17.  Frank was convicted of statutory rape.  There, as I said, is the short story.  Obviously, Frank was placed on the Sex Offender Registry and has remained there for 15 years.  Now, let's hear the whole story.

Frank was a high school senior when he met Nikki, a high school freshman.  One thing led to another and shortly thereafter (well, not too shortly) their relationship included activities of a sexual nature. (Was that said politely enough?  I worry)  Anyway, Nikki's mother wasn't fond of the relationship progressing as quickly as it had been so she decided to put a scare into him.  She took her daughter to the local police station and reported him for having sexual relations with a minor.  Big mistake.  Huge.  She decided to go back the following day to rescind her complaint, however....yeah, you can guess the rest.  Frank was then arrested for statutory rape and, as part of a plea agreement to avoid jail time, pleaded guilty to the charges.  He got seven years probation and had to register as a sex offender.  Not cool.  Just so we all know what this entailed, Frank was not allowed, during his probation, to go to places like swimming pools or football games - anywhere there might be children present.  In fact (this was unreal), he had to move out of his home because he had a twelve-year old sister.  One size fits all?  Is Frank really a sexual predator?

Here's the best part of the story - in a time when most people cannot keep their marriages together and more than half the married couples get divorced, Frank is Nikki.  As a matter of fact, he and Nikki have four beautiful daughters and a loving marriage.  They showed him out back playing with his girls, something many of us would love to have the opportunity to do, and teaching them soccer.  he is, as you'd assume, unable to coach their soccer teams.  Frank, so the story told, is wearing today's modern version of the Scarlet letter.  This whole situation, so it was pointed out by Robin Sax, a criminal defense attorney and former sex crimes prosecutor, was caused by a parent using the legal system rather than having a conversation and parenting their child.

So the question begging to be asked - is Frank truly a sexual predator?  Is there a danger to children?  he had sex with his girlfriend.  He might not have used the best judgment, however does the punishment fit the 'crime'?  How many of us (seriously, be honest), when thinking of our younger days, can say we weren't close to breaking that law (if we actually didn't)?  Honestly, it's time for making a few adjustments to this law.  We need to use common sense in these cases.  In a time when it's all the rage to pass legislation allowing (or disallowing) gay marriage, shouldn't something like this be important, too?  Shouldn't Frank have the same rights as the rest of us when his only crime was having sex with the mother of his four beautiful, loving children?  In a time when there are people savagely raping others, shouldn't Frank's case be one that is a prime example of using our heads rather than our emotions?  You may think I am truly lost on this one.  I, however, think the guy deserves better.  I wish him the best...and hope that, eventually, someone gets the message that not every case is the same.

Until next time.....

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