Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Disney World, running amok with perverts; or, reading between the lines

Theme park employees from Disney, Universal Studios and SeaWorld caught in sex stings, the headline says.

Thirty-five Disney employees arrested in sex stings since 2006, that is. Thirty-five arrested over a period of nine years. Thirty-five out of 300,000 employees during those nine years.

Thirty-two of the 35 have been convicted. Well, of course they have! The other three cases will almost certainly end with a conviction, too. The article does not tell us how many of these people went to trial though I imagine the number is close to zero. Most prosecutions--not only for sex offenses--end with plea agreements.

A justice system where the prosecution never has to prove its case is no justice system at all.

The article provides details about some cases. In one case, a man was found in possession of illegal images that included "multiple scenes of nude prepubescent children engaging in sexual activity with adults and other children". For other cases, the illegal images are described only as "child porn."

Why the difference? I have a sneaking suspicion that some cases have more interesting, more shocking details than others. It simply isn't shocking to hear that someone was in possession of video that a teenager made of himself and uploaded himself. News media doesn't like to explain that the legal definition of child porn also includes images of teenagers, made by teenagers. When people hear about child porn, they assume it means images of small children being raped. What news outlet, hungry for advertising dollars, wants to get in the way of audience imaginings that will bring them back for followup articles?

Some of the arrests were of men who met a kid online and eventually tried to meet in person for sex. Where do you suppose these men were hanging out online that they met kids eager for sex? Nickelodeon? PBS Kids?

Let's think. If the men had been trolling websites meant for children, what reporter would fail to lead with that detail? Look at the headline above: It doesn't leave it at theme park employees; it says Disney, Universal Studios and Sea World. If the websites had been those intended for children, the headline would have included that juicy tidbit. But it doesn't and that tidbit doesn't show up in the article, either. We are probably safe in assuming that the men were using adult websites.

But what children hang out on adult websites looking for sex? As it turns out, it seems there weren't any children looking for sex. There were only law enforcement officers pretending to be children. Is it possible that some cases did involve real children? Let's go back to the question about what news outlets would like to include in their stories. If an actual child isn't mentioned in the story, it is safe to say there were no actual children involved.

So: we have men spending time on websites meant for adults, in conversation with adults pretending to be children. Who starts those conversations? Who brings up the possibility of sex? If the pretend child introduces the idea of sex, that is very different from an adult approaching children in a chat room for children and asking for sex. The reporter does not tell us who introduced the idea of sex with the minors.

Now that Disney has been named in a headline as an employer of sex offenders, what does Disney have to say about it?
In a statement to CNN, Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler said, “Providing a safe environment for children and families is a responsibility we take very seriously. We have extensive measures in place, including pre-employment and ongoing criminal background checks and computer monitoring and firewalls. 
Background checks, hey? If that means the kind of background check that would have exposed a job applicant as a registered sex offender...that must mean that none of these 35 were registered sex offenders. Once again, we see that arrests for sex offenses most often are of those who are not on the registry. Once again, we see that the registry protects no one.
“The numbers reported by CNN represent one one-hundredth of one percent of the 300,000 people we have employed during this time period. We continue to work closely with law enforcement and organizations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as we constantly strengthen our efforts.”
Huh. Now that Disney has been named in a headline as an employer of sex offenders, they have no choice but to cooperate with law enforcement. Imagine the headlines if they did anything else.

What is said in a news article can be interesting. What is not said can be even more interesting.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

police want to force a 17-year-old boy's erection so they can photograph it

For the last week, the Internet has been chewing up a story about child pornography. Radley Balko sums it up:
...the efforts of officials in Northern Virginia to forcibly induce an erection in a teenage boy in order to pursue “sexting” charges against him has deservedly provoked national outrage. ... Manassas police have since backed down and now say that they won’t execute the warrant. Of course, there remains the problem of why the warrant was issued in the first place. No one in the Manassas Police Department, the office of Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert or the judge who signed off on the warrant was able to see what the rest of the country saw, here: an outrageous abuse of power and an unfathomable violation of this kid’s privacy. The Commonwealth of Virginia was prepared to create child porn in order to prosecute a 17-year-old kid for sending videos of himself to his then-girlfriend, who was 15 years old.
Seems clear: an outrageous abuse of power and an unfathomable violation of this kid's privacy.

Also clear: in the prosecution of a child pornography case, they were going to produce child pornography. 

As usual, it is a good idea to read all of Balko's piece. He talks about several other crazy cases in which teens landed in huge trouble for playing doctor while texting.

The trend is toward dragging more minors into the justice system.  

In an effort to register their contempt for child exploitation and sex crimes, lawmakers have defined sex offenses so broadly that a teen sending an explicit photo to a boyfriend or girlfriend can qualify. Typically, when critics point out that a new law could be used in ways lawmakers never intended, supporters point to prosecutorial discretion. They argue that it’s ridiculous, even insulting, to suggest that a prosecutor would twist a law to bring charges against someone in ways the law clearly never intended — or that a judge would allow it. That police, a prosecutor’s office and a judge all saw nothing wrong with forcibly inducing an erection in order to pursue charges against a 17-year-old kid puts the lie to that argument.
Sex isn’t the only context in which we’re ruining kids under the pretense of saving them. We’re protecting kids from drugs by arresting and jailing them for marijuana possession. We’re protecting them from the (mostly nonexistent) problem of school violence by assigning law enforcement to patrol middle and high school campuses. The presence of law enforcement means that kids who were once reprimanded, assigned detention or possibly suspended for infractions such as fighting, throwing food or truancy are now fed into the criminal justice system.
I have written about how casually cruelty is directed at the children of sex offenders, here, here, and here. As demonstrated in the cases Balko discusses and in a 2010 prosecution of sexting minors, the cruelty can be even more astounding when minors are the offenders.

More on the Virginia case from Robby Soave at Reason, from Shelly Stowe at Justice For All, and from Lenore Skenazy at Free Range Kids here and here.