Friday, January 09, 2009

Credit card thief charged as sex offender.

Government rarely, if ever, solves problems. Politicians and bureaucrats see social problems as opportunities for the expansion of their powers and privileges. The greater the problem, or just the perception of the problem, the greater the opportunity they have.

When something horrific like 9/11 takes place they rush in claiming all sorts of new powers for themselves. After all, they have to protect the public. These new laws have often been sitting, already written, waiting for the excuse that will justify a major assault on privacy or individual liberty.

Often the panic that justifies government intrusion is exaggerated well beyond reason. And sometimes, although rarely, these law are a response to a legitimate issue but one which falls well below the shock of something like the attack on the Twin Towers. One such panic is the “sex offender” issue.

This blog has repeatedly stressed, using real life examples, that the concept “sex offender” has been twisted into some grotesque assault on sexuality. It has gone far beyond any legitimate functions of government to protect people from criminals and is now being used as a general excuse for the puritans and the politicians to grab control of the genitals of others. In addition, these laws are being used in completely inappropriate ways. The government knows that if they say “sex offender” that hysterical mothers across the nation will pull out their pitchforks, organize a lynch mob, and hang the next poor sucker they come across. And the actual facts won’t matter a bit to them. Reason goes out the window when passion and fear come in the door.

This means that sex offender laws are one through which third-rate politicians can make a name for themselves. Consider the case of Greg Soucia. Greg is clearly a bad boy. The 21-year-old was a thief. But his theft also made him a “sex offender” once the local prosecutor got hold of him.

Unfortunately the main press report on Soucia’s case is no longer available but bits and pieces still exist on other sites. A law blog at Harvard University mentions the case. And they report the basic facts.

Mr. Soucia was a thief: more precisely he stole a credit card. And, as a result, he was prosecuted “under the ‘Sex Offender Management and Treatment Act’.” How’s that!!

What gave the low-life prosecutor, aptly named James Conboy, the excuse was that the young man used the stolen credit to hire some strippers. In the logical world of Mr. Conboy: “If you commit a burglary and your goal is because of your own sexual gratification, it’s a sexually motivated felony.”

I sincerely doubt that Soucia broke into a house to rob it just to get his jollies. I doubt that the reason he robbed the house was so he could hire a stripper. And, even if he wanted to hire a stripper, to call this sort of theft a “sex offense” is absolutely ridiculous. Either Mr. Conboy is incredibly moronic or incredibly power-hungry. Either way he is a threat to the decent people in his county.

Conboy admitted that by pretending that common theft was now a sex crime he could get a longer sentence for the offense. In addition the young thief will have to register as a dangerous sex offender. And how will the offender’s registry, or what vigilantes call “the hit list”, describe Mr. Soucia? When he is released from prison his picture, along with his home address, will be published on a sex offender’s web site. He will be listed as having been convicted of a “sexually motivated felony”. That sounds really bad. No doubt the morons who troll the lists will see this as proof that Soucia was out raping children at the local church nursery. Instead, he broke in a house and stole a credit card. And when he got the card he used it to hire a couple of strippers.
Carl Strock, a local newspaper columnist, wrote about the case (unfortunately the original link is also now defunct). He wrote:
What interests me most is that when he gets out he will be registered as a sex offender, thereby becoming subject to all those local laws that will prohibit him from living within 1,000 feet or 2,000 feet of a park, day care center, playground etc., even though the sexual aspect of his crime was perfectly legal. Yes. It’s perfectly legal to hire young women to put on a strip show as long as no physical sex is paid for. It happens all the time. The Schenectady company that provided the service in this case openly accepted a credit card, after all. But if you put the two things together, the illegal burglary and the legal paying for strippers, all of a sudden you have a sex crime under this new law, and you have generated another sex offender for people to go into convulsions over. Isn’t that cute? We don’t know yet if young Mr. Soucia will be a Level 1, 2 or 3 offender. He will be classified when he finally gets released, but he will be on the state registry and will be marked as a “predator,” in the terminology preferred by politicians.
To the making of “sex offenders” there is apparently no end.

Consider the ramifications of this theory. If you are the mother of a randy teenage boy beware. If Junior slips a few bucks out of your wallet, when you aren’t looking, and spends the money to buy a Playboy or some condoms he apparently is now a sex offender. If he borrows, without permission, the car so he can have a back seat romp with his date, he is now a sex offender -- even if both of them are legally considered adults in sexual matters. The kid who shoplifts a dirty magazine from the corner store can be labelled a “sex offender” instead of a shoplifter.

When these sex offender lists were started they were justified on the basis that the police needed to have access to a centralized data base of sex offenders for investigation purposes. Then the sex panic brigade got involved and cried out that the public ought to have access to the lists so they could be aware of individuals who were violent threats to the community. So the lists went on line.

But once they went on-line the bureaucrats and politicians started expanding the categories of people who had to be listed. Now a very larger percentage of “offenders” are not violent and not a threat to anyone. But the ignorant public doesn’t know that. The mob’s logic is: “If they weren’t a threat they wouldn’t be on the list.” Some only wake up to the reality when they, or their kids, or some relative ends up on the list.

I listened to the lament of one man who is grappling with the way his brother has been treated. The brother had an affair with a teenager, a teen who was considered able to consent in most of the states in the US, but not in this particular state. The relationship was entire consensual. There was no force, no violence. But the brother was arrested almost ten years ago and is still in prison.

The family of this “offender” lives in the heart of the Bible Belt. They seem your typical conservative, Bible-belt family. This man couldn’t understand what the state had done to his brother. “I don’t approve of his life-style,” he would tell me, “but he didn’t deserve this.” The “offender’s” nephew couldn’t understand what they had done to his uncle. The mother and grandmother were emotionally wrecked by the case. And it is clear that prison has had emotionally destroyed the man convicted of this offense. He will never adjust to a normal life and the consensus is that he will either be murdered in jail or kill himself -- he has tried once already.

These were not people who gave these “sex offender” laws any thought prior to the arrest of their loved one. Across the country there are families who are learning, with horror, that instead of protecting families from crime, these sex offender laws are destroying families. When a credit card theft becomes a “sex offense” you know things have gone completely out of control. These laws need reform. Most of the laws passed in the last decade or two need to be repealed. The laws against rape and similar offenses were adequate but each new piece of legislation created more victims of the sex hysteria. It has to stop.

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