Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sex offender status leads to murder.

Michael Dodele wasn’t a nice guy. He was a rapist. In 1987 he raped a 37-year-old woman and for that crime he went to jail and served his sentence and was finally released from jail two months ago. Now 67-years-old his family was happy to have him home.

But now the fanatical “sex offender” laws kicked in. Dodele was listed as a “registered sex offender” and most people assume, falsely, that he means he attacked children. Dodele was never involved with a child.

But Ivan Oliver, a neighbor, was woefully uninformed. He used the state’s internet data base of sex offenders and discovered the elderly man next door was on the list. Oliver’s imagination started running wild because of the way this ill-considered data base lists offenses. Dodele was listed for crimes that involved a child under 14 OR force. Force against an adult is thus listed in the same category as attacking a child.

Oliver then went door to door in the complex informing all the neighbors that the old man was a “sex offender”. And then Oliver decided to take matters into his own hands. He attacked Dodele and stabbed him to death --- all thanks to the cutesy named “Megan’s Law” which put all registered sex offenders, and their home addresses on the internet for anyone to find.

When police arrived to find the dead man they were directed by neighbors to Oliver who had blood on himself from the murder. Oliver said he had to do it because he was a “moral” man with “family values”. A local psychologist said she received a phone call from Oliver’s partner and the mother of his child who said that Oliver “was very upset to have a child molester living nearby.”

Oliver had allowed his imagination to run crazy. He was convinced that Dodele “was fantasizing, plotting. Later on down the line, who knows how many other children he could have hurt.” When told Dodele had never attacked any children Oliver merely responded: “There is no curing the people that do it.” He said: “I felt that by not taking evasive action as a father in the right direction, I might as well have taken my child to some swamp filled with alligators and had them tear him to pieces. It’s no different.”

The term “sex offender” has been politicized so that the meaning in public and the real meaning are very different things. To the average individual a sex offender attacks children. In truth huge numbers of people get listed as sex offenders for rather innocuous actions. We saw how a teenage boy in Arizona barely escaped being listed as a “sex offender” for life for showing a friend a copy of Playboy magazine. Many sex offenders were dating a partner a few months shy of California’s higher than average age of consent. A little hanky-panky on a date turns the older individual into a sex offender and this includes people who have since been married to their “victim” for years. In Utah a student was facing sex offender status because he streaked a school event -- he is charged with exposing himself to children.

But the all-encompassing “sex offender” laws catch people for things that many people wouldn’t even consider a crime. And once on the list the politicians have made the names and addresses available to the public. Originally sex offender lists were justified for police use in investigating crimes. Instead the list is now public property and used by anyone for any purpose. Numerous individuals, like Dodele, have been murdered because they were on the list and the killers made the same assumption that Oliver made. The local chief deputy district attorney, Richard Hinchcliff, finds that understandable. He says “it would be easy to understand why someone might think so [that being listed means one is a child molester] looking at the web site.”

Mr. Dodele was not the first person murdered under the erroneous assumption that he molested children. Nor will he be the last. But the ignorant public is the voting block that politicians want behind them so they pander to them. Few politicians will have the guts to admit that they have overdone it and that these registries are causing more harm than good.