Friday, August 24, 2012

this is how the media foments hysteria over sex offenders

In a story about a man sentenced to life in prison for first degree sexual assault of a child, the reporter goes all out in his efforts to make the story as lurid as possible. Sex offenders are supposed to be terrifying, after all.
He didn't fit the Jerry Sandusky model to a T. 
Then again, maybe Omaha resident Darrel G. Meyer was more in the mold of Penn State's convicted child molester than anyone realized.  
Football coach. Purported mentor of children. Program builder. Respected community member.  
Pedophile.  
 The case is already shocking. A man admired and respected in the community raped a little girl over several years.

That's not enough for Todd Cooper, though. He found a way to pull the Jerry Sandusky story into this. Sandusky stories get attention. 
Meyer, 64, didn't prey on the number of children Sandusky did — at least not that authorities are aware of. 
That must have been satisfying, typing those words. Imagine! This man might have been just like Sandusky! Sex offenders are such easy targets, aren't they? Who will protest the slimy suggestion that this man is guilty of more, much more? 

Except he isn't just like Sandusky. This man has not been accused of sexually assualting anyone other than one little girl. What Cooper wrote is despicable. ...at least not that authorities are aware of is an assumption, an accusation. 

Todd Cooper is not a pedophile...at least not that authorities are aware of.
As much as once a week for nearly five years, he raped her, molested her and manipulated her. He groomed her, showered her with diamonds and other gifts, and silenced her, for a time, by threatening to kill himself or to cart her off to Boys Town. 
Yes, he sounds like a bad, bad man. And maybe he really is that awful, I don't know. The details--grooming, showering her with gifts, silencing her--should convince me.

And yet...and yet:
 After pleading guilty in May in a plea deal to two counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child, and with a mandatory minimum 15 years on each count, it was almost assured he would spend the rest of his life in prison.
Ah. A plea deal. Well, that changes things, doesn't it? 

A plea deal means the prosecution never had to prove anything. They didn't have to prove the raping or the molesting, let alone the grooming, the gifts, the silencing. The prosecution merely had to make the accusations.  But, you say, he did plead guilty! He must be guilty, then.

It is possible, perhaps even probable that he is guilty of something. Maybe even something awful. But we'll never know, will we? Without a trial where the evidence is laid out and examined by a jury, we will never know. 

Instead, we are left with Todd Cooper's breathless--reprehensible!--attempts to make the story worse than it already is. 
...the question was whether he would show up [for the sentencing]. Meyer had been living in Omaha after posting $30,000 bail last summer. 
After he walked in and plopped down in the front row of the fourth-floor courtroom, one of the lead detectives in the case raised her eyebrows and said: “I'm shocked that he's here.”  
Meyer's attorney, D.C. “Woody” Bradford of Omaha, said no one should have been.
Again, Cooper tries to make mountains of molehills. No matter what the lead detectives said, and no matter whose eyebrows were raised, there was no question that the man would appear for his sentencing. He pled guilty, he put up a substantial bond, he didn't leave town, he attended therapy, he found support groups. Cooper, though, needed to embellish with "plopped down" and with the eyebrows.

Todd Cooper is not a stupid man. What he did was deliberate. It was wrong.

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