Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Outraged public making sex abuse DA rethink his strategy.

The district attorney, Bradley Berry, who is prosecuting boys in Oregon for swatting other students on the butt, is feeling the heat of an irate public.

Susan Goldsmith, of the Oregonian, writes that Berry “has declined to discuss specifics of the case” but “after spending most of Monday fielding complaints, however, he elaborated for the first time.” That elaboration was first exclusively printed on this blog.

As a result of our query to Berry he responded making certain claims about how the case will proceed. After publishing them we passed Berry’s comments on to the Oregonian. An editor at the paper wrote us saying: “In the exchange, Mr. Berry divulged some thoughts about the prosecution’s plans that are new.” After receiving the exchange with Berry, Goldsmith wrote this blog saying “I am going to be calling him shortly” in regards to his comments.

Berry is still standing by the claim that this playing around was abusive. And he admits, as he did to us yesterday, that registration as sex offenders may be required but says, “these youths can petition the court relatively quickly for relief from that.” Actually they shouldn’t have to. The case should be dropped.

The parents of Berry’s victims are furious, though a bit relieved. Tracie Masburn, whose son Cory is one of the victims of this prosecution, says she is “angry that they can overcharge” the way they did to intimidate people. Ryan Cornelison’s father, Joe, asks, “What kind of due process is this?”

Goldsmith says the campaign by Berry has imposed heavy financial losses on the families, who were were already struggling. Joe Cornelison lost his phone last week because he couldn’t afford to pay the costs along with legal fees imposed by this prosecution. The Mashburn family is in the process of refinancing their home in order to cover the costs Berry imposed on them.

Berry admitted that he was swamped with emails and phone calls in protest of his actions. And this is, in large measure, due to the influence of the Internet. Because the net what was a local story became a global one and Berry heard from lots of people around the country, and around the world.

The families of the victims also received support, including financial contributions to help them carry the unfair burden inflicted on them. Joe Cornelison said the public reaction has been helpful. “I am very thankful. I can’t believe it. It’s been really hard. I’m behind on bills and have a hard time sleeping because I’m worried about son, and his life has really been changed by this.”

One donor, Dr. Bruce Russell, said: “My parents didn’t teach me that that kind of activity or play was a felony, and I was raised by good parents in West Texas. I am just thinking this is so completely out of the bounds of common sense that it needs to be addressed.”

We should be clear that that the only thing that has changed in this case is that Berry is now claiming the penalties won’t be those allowed under the law. He is still proceeding with the prosecution of these children. And the families involved still face thousands of dollars in legal expenses. Forcing the children to register as sex offenders is still a possibility and the comfort that Berry offers, that they can then petition the court to remove that, will still impose additional legal fees and hardship on the families.

The key lesson here is the power disparity. Government and bureaucrats have massive power and people only have the powers the government will allow them. (There was a time in the United States when the reverse was true.) Berry gets paid to do this, the families not only pay their legal expenses but are forced to finance Berry’s office as well.

The Mashburn and Cornelison families have been required to fund their own destruction. Bradley Berry sleeps well at night. He doesn’t worry that a lack of money in his pocket will harm him or his family. The victims of his prosecution don’t have the same luxury of living off the taxpayers. They are the taxpayers!

There needs to a be a redistribution of power in the United States. Government needs to have a lot less of it and the people, the very people who are supposed to be the source of state authority, ought to have more of it. Yet neither of the two major parties in the United States seems to understand this. The Democrats are besotted with state control and the Republicans are even worse.

This is still not a victory for reason by any means. The prosecution still continues. Susan Goldsmith and the Oregonian deserve praise. As does the network of websites and blogs that spread the story far and wide. But this is the time to step up the protests, not reduce them. The DA, no doubt hopes that by saying things won't be as bad as they could be this will satisfy people and he can continue with his case. The case should not continue. He should withdraw and apologize. See our previous post for information on where to send your protests.