I have heard discussions regarding the cable show about Internet predators and how they catch them soliciting young children but had never seen it. That is until last week. Chris Hanson, who I salute for all of his work in exposing what has become an epidemic, sets up decoys online to catch Internet predators soliciting sexual acts from children. The statistics were completely alarming. According to his investigations, in a location outside of New York, 18 men showed up in two-and-a-half days in hopes of meeting young children. In a suburb of Washington D.C., 19 men in three days. In 2006, in southern California, 50 men in 3 days. That same year in Harris county Georgia, 20 men in four-and-a-half days. Twenty-five men showed up in Murphy, Texas and 21 men in Flager Beach, Fl.. This means that across the country these predators are lurking on the Internet and ruining the lives of young children before they have a chance to begin.
Daniel Pulido was one of the subjects in this episode. He didn't have fangs hanging out of his mouth or walk hunched over with a scary movie type gleam in his eye. He was a regular looking guy with a t-shirt, jeans and a baseball cap. He went to the house hoping to meet a 13-year-old girl home alone. He sent the decoy pictures over the Internet of his genitals and then asked if she'd give him oral sex. After he discovered that this was in fact somewhat of a set-up, he (not surprisingly) claimed he didn't go to the house for sex and was there to teach the girl a lesson about the dangers of talking to strangers online. He didn't even have the decency to admit that he had done anything wrong.
Chris Hanson spoke of many other subjects that were equally disturbing due to the fact that they were regular people. There was a rabbi, a doctor, a special education teacher, an army man, a defense contractor, a medical student...the list goes on. They all had different stories and explanations. One man vehemently argued that he had done nothing wrong and could not legally be punished unless he was caught in the act or if Chris Hanson had some concrete evidence. He actually accused Hanson of coercing him, as if he was the victim. Many said this was their first time ever doing anything like this and they weren't going to go through with it. Others broke down and admitted that they had an addiction to the Internet and needed help. But the most shocking was a man who actually walked into the house naked in hopes of meeting a 14-year-old boy. He had in his possession a 12-pack of beer and some condoms. I guess this was before Chris Hanson had the police outside arresting the people as soon as they walked out the door thinking they got away. But within 12 hours of this man being confronted on national television, he was back in a chat room, talking to a decoy posing as a 13 year old boy. He engages the decoy in talks about sex and sets up a meeting at a fast food restaurant and Chris Hanson confronted him yet again.
I have very strong feelings on this subject. I know that as a Christian, the Bible says "judge not lest ye be judged...". That tells me that it's not my place to condemn anyone, but I do feel that they should be severely punished. I know that in principle, this country is supposed to stand for tolerance but should we really tolerate everything?
Furthermore, at what point does tolerance turn into proliferation? I looked at some cases where they actually put children that were abused on the stand and interrogated them in front of a courtroom. They brought up instances where they got into trouble in school, maybe lied to get out of punishment for not doing homework. Maybe they got suspended or served detention. This was done in an effort to attack their credibility in hopes of convincing the jury that there is at least a shred of reasonable doubt. I understand that the suspect has a constitutional right to confront their accuser, but should it become a tactic used by the defense to prove the innocence beyond a shadow of a doubt? I know that sometimes children don't tell the truth and sending an innocent man to prison is a tragedy in itself, but should these kids literally be assaulted in the courtroom?
I am actually more conservative than most conservatives on this issue. Surprising as it is, I applaud Bill O'Reily for going after the judges who give these repeat sex offenders light sentences. Like the Vermont judge, Edward Cashman, who handed down a 60 day sentence to a child molester in hopes of expediting the convict's enrollment in sex offender treatment. Or Judge John Connor, who sentenced a man to probation who confessed to orally raping a 5-year-old boy and an 11-year-old boy over and over. O'Reily proves that he can use his power for a noble reason if he chooses.
According to a study, "Offenders who seek out children to victimize by placing themselves in positions of trust, authority, and easy access to youngsters can have hundreds of victims over the course of their lifetimes". Another study found that, "the average number of victims for non-incestuous pedophiles who molest girls is 20; for pedophiles who prefer boys its 100".
In 1932, the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby outraged Americans so much that Congress enlarged the role of federal law enforcement and increased penalties for kidnappers who operated across state lines. They were tired of people finding loopholes and ways around being severely punished for their crimes. In a like manner, many child predators roam from state to state. So the question is, should federal authorities take over all criminal prosecutions of those charged with harming minors? After watching this special and seeing the statistics, it is apparent that congressional action is needed again. It is more than clear that children have become targets, and now with the use of the Internet, something needs to be done.
This brings me to my issues with some of the sections of the Catholic Church, which have become the epitome of concealment. These offending clergy, who represent a fraction of the priesthood, are in essence destroying, even murdering the lives of so many young children, and nothing is being done about it. These sections of the Catholic Church are almost enabling sex offenders to become repeat sex offenders by keeping secret and protecting the clergy who should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. They should not be protected under the covering of the Catholic Church. For example, there is no question, based on civil depositions, that Cardinal Law of Boston and Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles allowed child-molesting priests to continue working on their watch. Children were being repeatedly raped by priests, the Cardinals turned a blind eye and these atrocities continued. Yet the cardinals were not charged with aiding and abetting and the local authorities joined in turning a blind eye in fear of indicting a powerful cleric.
I think that any adult, including clergy, charged with harming a child younger than 16 years of age should be tried in a federal court and sent to a federal prison. No probation, no therapy or counseling, but charged with a felony, and sent to a different type of prison. Each convict would be housed alone in a cell and mandated to do hard labor six days a week. The prison would be located in an isolated location, and there would be no parole, no TV, no weights and no amenities. Now, they can have the counseling and therapy there at the prison, after they finish their hard labor for the day. But a mandatory sentencing would be immediately applied. No three-strikes-or-we'll-wait-to-see-if-they-molest-or-rape-another-child-before-we-consider-a-harsher-punishment, but a set mandatory sentence. This would eliminate judges such as Edward Cashman or John Connor from handing down any further sentencing catastrophes.
In addition, I would want there to be some type of red flag applied to everything that is associated with the ex-child molester once released from their mandatory sentence. Much more than having them register as a sex offender on a site such as registered offenderslist.org. Once convicted of child molestation, it should not be kept secret, nor protected under some privacy law. Every time they apply for a job, especially if attempting to work with children, some type of notification should take place. So when they are asked the question have you ever been convicted of a felony, their answer would have to be yes. They shouldn't (in my opinion) be allowed to work anywhere near children. Schools, day cares, after school programs, etc. should be completely off limits.
The reason we even have a federal government is to protect all Americans, and children are the ones who need the most protecting. To properly care for our children, we owe them some form of extreme penalty and the power of the federal government to deal with adults who commit these evil acts. However, for this to work, the judicial system must function correctly. It would have to make a dramatic improvement from the wrongful convictions that are consistently handed down today.
People on Capitol Hill can talk about how much they love children until they are blue in the face. However, if they don't do anything, if they don't take the necessary steps to keeping our children safe, then all that talking means absolutely nothing. Children are precious gifts, and those who wish to harm these priceless gems should be sent a very strong message: If you hurt a child, you will not get away with it.
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