Sex And Justice Incredible Defense

COMMENT

January 16, 1994|By KEVIN THOMAS

The following column is not about sex. It's about justice. And no matter how much lip service we give to the notion that justice is blind, we know full well it's not.

At best, it's visually impaired and that's not always good enough.

Last week, Howard County Circuit Court Judge Cornelius Sybert Jr., generally held in high esteem within legal circles, sentenced a 25-year-old woman who was found guilty of carrying on an extended sexual relationship with a boy who was 12 years old at the time.

The sentence?

Five years, with all but 10 days suspended. In addition, the guilty woman must seek counseling during five years of probation -- in other words, a slap on the wrist.

There were mitigating circumstances. The woman's court-appointed attorney, who asked that the woman's entire sentence be suspended, described his client as "extremely humiliated, extremely remorseful and extremely embarrassed." I bet she was also extremely scared, given the fact that she could have been jailed for up to 20 years.

But the most bald-faced, convoluted, infuriating defense made in her behalf was that the 12-year-old youth with whom she had sex 15 times caused his own abuse.

Listen to what Assistant Public Defender Spencer Gordon had to say on this score: "The victim was very much the aggressor. It was more like my client relenting or giving into the advances of the victim."

This newspaper, like most, does not reveal the names of minors in such cases.

I'm going to go a step further and not give the name of the convicted woman, because I believe that she is ill and needs specialized help. She also has two young daughters, who don't deserve to be judged by their mother's mistakes.

That's where my compassion ends, however. Child sex abuse cases are fast being placed on the same level of other violent crimes in this country. People are sick and tired of seeing the guilty parties go unpunished or set free too soon, often with some psychiatrist's certification that the former molester has been cured.

We know what often comes next.

There are exceptions, such as the case of Ronald Walter Price, the Anne Arundel County high school teacher who was sentenced to 20 plus years for having sex with a long list of female students.

Price had sexual relations with his students in every conceivable place in and out of school. His lack of judgment and discretion was only matched by his appearance on the trashy, circus-of-the-bizarre talk show that Geraldo Rivera inflicts on society.

It was on Mr. Rivera's show that Price admitted his crimes. He was also kind enough to prosecutors to diagnose himself sick, while blaming school administrators for failing to stop him, all practically in the same breath.

The case in Howard County never got such publicity. But it's no less galling. At least Ron Price, as far as I know, never blamed his victims for his actions.

All of which brings me, painfully, to another point. There does seem to be a double standard applied when the perpetrator of sexual abuse is a woman.

Test it in your own mind. Flip the sex, so that 22-year-old offender is a man and his victim was a 12-year-old girl.

No matter how sexually precocious that girl might be, would we buy a defense that painted the girl as a sexual predator and the offender as a weak, unwilling and yet ultimately relenting partner?

Not until the jail door was locked tight and the key thrown away.

It is too bad that many people believe a difference exists when the victim is male. It's a male locker room joke: "Making it with an older woman is every boy's fantasy. What a lucky kid!"

Lets think about this "lucky kid" and the amorous advances he had so well tuned by the ripe age of 12. Never mind that most 12-year-old boys would be frozen with fear at the prospect of having relations with a woman twice his age.

And let's consider the woman, who finds her marriage falling apart and turns to a child for gratification.

There is no question in my mind who is the offender in this case; she deserves to be off the streets for a very long time.

And what of the boy?

He's 15 now and locked in a juvenile facility for forcing two young boys to perform sex acts.

That's justice.

Kevin Thomas is The Baltimore Sun's editorial writer in Howard County.

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