Monday, June 23, 2008

TX - Kids Fed 'Silly Pills,' Forced to Perform Sex Shows in Shocking Abuse Case

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06/23/2008

MINEOLA — In the windowless front rooms of a former day care center in a tiny Texas community, children as young as 5 were fed powerful painkillers they knew as "silly pills" and forced to perform sex shows for a crowd of adults.

Two people have already been convicted in the case. Now a third person with ties to the club, previously known in town only as a swingers group, is set to go on trial Monday not far from Mineola, population 5,100.

"This really shook this town," said Shirley Chadwick, a longtime resident of Mineola. "This was horrible."

Patrick Kelly, 41, is charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child, tampering with physical evidence and engaging in organized criminal activity.

In all, six adults have been charged in connection with the case, including a parent of the three siblings involved.

Jurors this year deliberated less than five minutes before returning guilty verdicts against the first two defendants, who were accused of grooming the kids for sex shows in "kindergarten" classes and passing off Vicodin as "silly pills" to help the children perform.

Jamie Pittman and Shauntel Mayo were sentenced to life in prison. Kelly also faces a life sentence if convicted, and Smith County prosecutors hope for another swift verdict.

Thad Davidson, Kelly's attorney, said his client passed a lie-detector test proving his innocence and worries about getting a fair trial in Tyler, 25 miles southeast of Mineola, which is in Wood County.

"I think it's impossible to get a fair trial within 80 miles of Smith County," Davidson said.

Mineola, about 80 miles east of Dallas, is a close-knit, conservative bean-processing town of with more than 30 churches. Residents there want to put the scandal behind them as quickly as possible.

The one-story building where prosecutors say four children — the three siblings, now ages 12, 10 and 7, and their 10-year-old aunt — were trained to perform in front of an audience of 50 to 100 once a week has been vacant since the landlord ousted the alleged organizers in 2004.

Down a slight hill is a retirement home, and even closer is the office of the local newspaper. Doris Newman, editor of The Mineola Monitor, said rumors of swinger parties spread around town but that no one mentioned children being involved.

Newman, who can see the building from her office window, said she remembers the parking lot filling up with more than a dozen cars at night.

In August 2004, an editorial under the headline "Sex In the City" opined that if the swingers left quietly, "we'll try and forget they've infiltrated our town with their set of moral standards."

"It's not that we're trying to look the other way," Newman said. "But there's a lot more to Mineola than that."

According to a Mineola police report, the department first investigated a complaint in June 2005 in which the siblings' foster mother said one of the girls described dancing toward men and another child saying that "everybody does nasty stuff in there."

In the second trial, Child Protective Services caseworker Kristi Hachtel testified, "I've seen a lot and I never in my wildest dreams imagined this. They were preyed upon in probably one of the most heinous ways possible."

The children are now doing better, the welfare agency said.

"Through counseling and therapy sessions, these children are now finally feeling secure and safe," agency spokeswoman Shari Pulliam wrote in an e-mail.

Permanent custody of the three siblings was given to John and Margie Cantrell. This week, prosecutors in California charged John Cantrell with sexually assaulting a child in the state 18 years ago. Margie Cantrell said her husband is innocent.

Kelly's attorney moved Friday asking to postpone the trial in light of the allegations against Cantrell, a state witness. Texas Child Protective Services said it would be "common" for the agency to investigate.

The Rev. Tim Letsch is opening a church in the yellow-plastered building where the children were abused. He acknowledges that building a congregation might be difficult because of the stigma attached to the property.

"You got to decide whether you're willing to forgive those kind of things," Letsch said. "It's a hard deal. Especially for a spiritual person to walk in and say, 'This happened here."'


OK - Teen Pleads Guilty To Child Sex Charge

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OK, so lets make everyone who has ever looked at a man or women in a sexual manner a sex offender for life, then we'll all be on equal ground! This is just insane!

06/22/2008

STILLWATER -- A former rural Stillwater teenager will be permitted to remain in his grandfather's custody in another county pending his sentencing on a child sex charge in November, a Payne County judge ruled last week.

Kenneth Doyle Sutterfield, 17, pleaded guilty Thursday to lewdly looking at a 9-year-old female relative while she was partially undressed last summer at his then-residence in rural Stillwater.

Sutterfield, who was 16 at the time, was charged as a youthful offender and held on $25,000 bail in a juvenile detention center until he was released to his grandfather's custody by District Judge Donald Worthington in March.

Sutterfield will continue to receive outpatient counseling while he awaits his sentencing on Nov. 21, Worthington ordered Thursday.

Two days after the incident, one of Sutterfield's relatives reported that "she heard whispering upstairs in his (Sutterfield's) bedroom," on Aug. 14, 2007, former Payne County Sheriff's Investigator Billy Bartram said.

The relative discovered that Sutterfield and the 9-year-old girl were partially undressed, Bartram said.

The girl ran out of Sutterfield's bedroom and the relative told a parent what had happened, Bartram said.


LA - House wants criminals to register

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06/23/2008

BATON ROUGE — Just having perpetrators of identity theft register with local and state police, much like sex offenders do, isn't enough, members of the House said Sunday.

With a 68-26 vote, the House rejected a conference committee report that tossed out a House amendment requiring people who commit violent crimes to register.

Rep. Roy Burrell (Email), D-Shreveport, who handled Marrero Sen. Derrick Shepherd's (Email) SB4 in the House, said the conference committee removed the provision because there was no way to fund it. The bill requires identity theft criminals to pay a $60 fee when they register to cover the cost of administering and distributing the list but there was no such provision for other crimes.

"When we got this back from the Senate, a note on it said it was unconstitutional," Burrell said.
- Why is it that when it's for anybody besides sex offenders, it's unconstitutional? If it's good enough for sex offenders, it's good enough for everyone else. This is yet more proof that the sex offender laws are punishment.

Rep. Page Cortez (Email), R-Lafayette, said requiring those who committed violent crimes should register, too, because when areas of the state have to evacuate, "it would be important for the shelter to know if there was a rapist or a murderer in the shelter."
- Or a child abuser, DUI offender, drug dealer, thief, you name it. Yep, I'm all for it. Like another user said in another comment, when this is done, then all criminals would be equal, which I am all for...

Burrell said if someone wants other criminals to register, he should file his own bill.
- Notice how it's not about sex offenders, so they are coming up with all kinds of excuses?

Rep. Damon Baldone (Email), D-Houma, author of the House amendment that was rejected, said putting the bill back in a conference committee could find the answer to the constitutionality question and the panel could add a fee for the other criminals to register.

The committee must come back with another suggestion that can be approved before the session ends at 6 p.m. today or the bill dies.
- And I am willing to bet, it will die!!


The Adam Walsh Act: The Scarlet Letter of the Twenty-First Century

View the PDF document here or here.

Reforming sex offender laws will not be easy. At a time when national polls indicate that Americans fear sex offenders more than terrorists, legislators will have to show they have the intelligence and courage to create a society that is safe yet still protects the human rights of everyone.

Introduction:
Police arrested Evan B., a high school student in Salina, Oklahoma, for exposing himself to several female students on his way to the restroom. Although Evan’s mother told the local media her son’s behavior was just a “high school thing,” a court charged Evan with indecent exposure, and Evan served four months in prison before receiving a five-year suspended sentence and community service. Additionally, his “high school thing” required him to register as a sex offender in Oklahoma.

Unfortunately, the stigma of being a registered sex offender propelled Evan’s life into a downward spiral, driving him out of his community and away from his family. After dropping out of school and moving to Tulsa, Evan struggled to find and maintain employment. Less than a year later, Evan committed suicide. He shot himself only one month shy of his twentieth birthday.

According to his mother, it seemed like Evan stopped caring about school and his future after the incident and his sentencing. To her, Evan was a normal kid, but registering as a sex offender turned his life upside down. She believed that “some considerations should be given to sex offender registration requirements when the charge stems from a nonviolent act.”

In recent years, the words “sex offender” have transformed into a loosely and frequently used term. Congress and state legislatures have enacted sex offender laws because of highly publicized, horrific crimes, particularly those committed against children. As federal and state governments introduce stricter punishments, requirements, and prohibitions for sex offenders, the offenders become branded by the negative stigma associated with their status. While many sex offenders commit heinous crimes, experts and officials question whether the strict laws imposed against all sex offenders, including non-violent offenders like Evan B., actually increase the safety of those the laws seek to protect.

This Note will argue that the most recent development in this area of law, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (AWA), contains over-inclusive sex offender registration requirements and punishments. Implementation of the AWA will undoubtedly cause problems for state governments, law enforcement, non-violent sex offenders, and citizens, both as taxpayers and intended beneficiaries of the AWA. Specifically, the AWA is an unfunded mandate that places severe and unfair registration requirements and punishments on sex offenders, and requires offenders to register without distinguishing between violent and non-violent offenders or evaluating the likelihood of recidivism.

Part II of this Note examines the development of sex offender registration requirements in the federal and state governments. It addresses the transformation from the initial freedom left with the states to determine their own standards to the recent, more expansive, and mandatory federal requirements under the AWA. Part III of this Note discusses the purpose of the sex offender requirements under the AWA and reasons why the AWA’s over-inclusiveness hinders achievement of that purpose. Part IV concludes with a call for reform of the AWA, in order to better achieve the AWA’s purpose.


DE - Delaware House Approves Bill That Would Mandate HIV Testing for Accused Sex Offenders

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Why don't they do this for ALL criminals? Why just sex offenders? Not all sex offenders are even labeled this for anything to do with sex. Just more shaming, harassment and punishment...

06/23/2008

The Delaware House recently approved a bill (HB 424) that would require HIV testing for sexual assault defendants under certain circumstances, the AP/Bethany Beach Wave reports. According to bill sponsor Rep. Debbie Hudson (R), the measure would allow assault survivors to begin prophylactic treatment immediately (AP/Bethany Beach Wave, 6/19). The bill, which passed the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month, would amend an already existing state law and require an accused sex offender to submit to HIV testing within 48 hours of arrest if requested by the alleged assault survivor or a court order. If considered appropriate, the defendant also would have to submit to follow-up tests, even if initial tests were negative.

Unlike the existing law, some indication that HIV might have been transmitted, such as an exchange of bodily fluids, would not be necessary before a defendant undergoes testing. The bill also would mandate testing around the time of arrest, instead of around the time of arraignment, when a defendant is more likely to be represented by an attorney. In addition, a defendant would be required to pay the cost of testing unless deemed unable to do so (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/9).

If approved, the bill would allow the state to apply for federal grants under the Violence Against Women Act, the AP/Beach Wave reports (AP/Bethany Beach Wave, 6/19).


TX - Probation officers hold area sex offenders on tight leash

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This is just insane.. Weekly visits? Talk about harassment. And yes, IMO this is corruption and extortion, pure and simple...

06/23/2008

Many of us wouldn't think twice about seeing a child's bicycle strewn in the front lawn of a home. Or toys scattered about a living room. Or even empty beer cans and bottles of alcohol in the trash. But they're red flags for Kim Rogers when she makes an unannounced visit to one of her case's home.

That's because for Rogers, an adult probation officer for Midland County, her caseload is full of area sex offenders and anything hinting that a child or alcohol recently has been there is an offense and a breach of one's probation; for them, it could mean a trip to jail.

"What's OK for most of the world is against the law for these guys," said Allen Bell, deputy director of operations.

The only officer handling probationary sex offenders for Midland County,Rogers has a total of 81 offenders -- 63 of which report to her weekly and only three of those are females. But until about eight years ago, Bell said the county didn't have any female sex offenders on probation.

By law, each offender is required to attend a weekly meeting with Rogers; skipping one is a violation. And they're required to attend weekly counseling meetings at the office; again missing would be another violation.

But the rules for them don't stop there. If they want to leave the county, even to go into Odessa, they must stop by the probation office and get a travel permit. They can't have any alcohol while on probation; nor can they use the internet unsupervised and without permission from their officer.

Rogers also can stop by any time during a month to do a field visit, where she checks to make sure the offender still is living where he or she says, is not in possession of any pornography and has not been in contact with children.

"They're all grounds to revoke their probation," she said.
- This is setting them all up to fail, period. Wonder how many will wind up back in prison? Probably every single one.

Imagine having to do that for 10 years; that's the average time a sex offender in Midland County remains on probation.

For the first few years, Rogers said, it's the hardest for her cases because they still pretend everything is normal and try to go about their lives.

"They don't want to admit that they've done anything wrong," she said. "There's a big change once they accept the fact of what they've done."

Driving around town in the office's white pick-up, Bell and Rogers headed out one recent afternoon to make a few of the monthly visits.

Most local offenders reside out in the county limits, and that's because another stipulation is they must live at least 1,000-feet away from a school, a daycare or a pool -- any place children congregate and frequent -- and for many, it's easier to find a home away from the city.

"If you find a place outside of the 1,000-foot rule, that's prime real estate," Rogers said. "There are registered offenders all over town -- in really nice neighborhoods and really not-so-nice neighborhoods."

When offenders are looking for a place to live, they'll usually call Rogers and ask if the location is OK. First, the officer will use the Internet to check to see if it's nearby any of the locations offenders are not allowed to live near. If she's still unsure about the distance, she will go to visit the area and measure it with her measuring stick, a yellow rod with a wheel at its bottom.
- So why not GPS? This leaves room for error, she could make twists and turns to add more footage to the distance, then say, sorry, you cannot live here.

And when making a field visit to an offender's home, Rogers usually doesn't go by herself.

Unlike when she worked with other felony cases -- and the only real difference she said between the two types of cases is the extra paperwork she has to deal with now -- she has met many of her offenders' families and spouses and girlfriends or boyfriends.

She's also shown up at their place of employment when offenders get a job. Many of those are in the restaurant industry and many of her male cases work out in the oil field. She has one offender who cuts hair for a living.
- Now this is beyond harassment!

But those able to find work are usually the best employees because they don't want to jeopardize their jobs.

"Finding a job is more of an issue than keeping a job," she said.

And they need to have money. The fees for those on probation differ, but one offender recently told Rogers he had spent over $40,000 in the last 10 years since he's been on probation.
- More proof these laws are punishment. If he did not pay this $40,000 he'd be in jail or prison.

All offenders must pay a $55 a month fee plus $100 a month for counseling. For the 10 years that many are on probation, those two fees total $18,600. Depending on their offense, court fines can average as high as $10,000 and many courts also order the offenders to pay for a year of counseling -- about $1,500 -- for their victims.
- Pure extortion!!!

Urine analysis tests done at random to check for drugs are $20 each time an offender must take one, and those ordered to wear the GPS monitors around their ankles pay a fee of $10 a day or $300 a month.
- This is just insane... And this is not punishment??? BULLS--T!!!!! Sounds like you have to be rich to be a sex offender.

And on top of all of that, if an offender wants to go to court to see if a judge will hear a case and reduce their sentencing, they must hire a lawyer, and many charge $1,500 for starters.

Some barely can make their rent payment on top of all the other fees, Rogers said, so paying the lawyer's fee is almost unheard of.
- And I'm sure that 2nd part is what they had in mind, so you cannot find the draconian, unconstitutional laws.

"But it beats the alternative," she said referring to prison.

There are currently about 238 registered sex offenders living in Midland County, according to the Department of Public Safety Web site.
- And if this is just one county, add up all the fees per year, and Texas is making a KILLING off sex offenders backs....

Audrie Palmer can be reached at palmer@mrt.com.


ME - Web site lists Maine corrections clients

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Of all the states that have registries, this one would be the last one I'd suspect of starting another one, especially after the deaths of several men who were on the sex offender registry and another man used the registry to hunt them down and murder them.

06/23/2008

AUGUSTA — The Maine Corrections Department is preparing to launch a Web site that will list all of the state's inmates and offenders who are on probation for any crime.

Officials say the site, which will include information on roughly 10,000 people, is expected to go on line in six weeks to two months.

Deputy Corrections Commissioner Denise Lord says the name, birth date, offense, physical description and projected release date will be listed. It will include any offender in prison or on probation for any offense.
- Why is it not going to list their home and work addresses?

Lord says the system will help police know instantly whether a suspect is on probation, and let victims know when perpetrators are getting out of prison.

Maine has a separate sex offender registry, which has come under intense legislative scrutiny since two men in the registry were shot to death two years ago by a man who saw their listing.


Stop threatening to put kids in jail for sex!

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06/22/2008

Geveryl Robinson tells us in the Savannah Morning News today that she saw the Today Show this week. She didn’t like what she saw:

I saw a story about 17 girls in a Gloucester, Mass., high school who made a pregnancy pact to get pregnant by any means necessary because they wanted to raise their children together.

And that’s exactly what they did.

Now this upsets Ms…. er, I’m thinking that in this case “Ms.” just won’t do! The appropriate honorific really has to be either “Miss” or “Mrs.”… Robinson and she goes on at some length about it. I’ll spare you the rosy prose and cut to her proposed solution:

One of the women from the town - I believe she was an attorney - said that they had to try to figure out what to do with all the guys who were having sex with girls who were 15.

“That’s statutory rape” she said. You think?

The parents of these little baby makers need to be slapped… HARD.

Then the baby makers and the men - correction - boys they had sex with need to be slapped… HARDER.

The last time I checked, statutory rape was a serious crime. In Massachusetts, offenders can receive up to a life sentence. So there’s nothing to figure out. Do to these guys what the state of Georgia did to Genarlow Wilson when, at the age of 17, he had consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl. Put them behind bars.

Now I know there are some people who would say locking the kids up wouldn’t do any good. But I don’t just think the boys should be locked up. I think the girls should go to the slammer as well.

Flummoxed, I hardly know where to start. Count me among those who believe locking up kids won’t do any good. It will do great harm! And I know just a little bit about the topic. I live in a town with six state prisons — prisons are economic development in rural towns like mine — and I sit on the advisory board of the youth prison. I invite anyone who thinks a young person convicted of consensual sex belongs in a prison to go visit one!

For God’s sake, do you really think the punishment fits the crime?

But let’s just say for a minute that you do. I promise you, you put that kid in that prison and he (or she) is going to come out a prisoner. There are real prisoners, real criminals, in there! What have you done? Made another prisoner! And what has it cost you? Prisons are expensive! Fortunately, most of the law enforcement professionals I know understand that. Apparently it’s the politicians — and the public — who don’t!

The Genarlow Wilson case that Robinson cites made Georgia a national embarrassment and was overturned by our Supreme Court (Genarlow is now attending Morehouse College and his attorney was named Newsmaker of the Year last year in a 7,000 word piece by the Fulton County Daily Report). It was messy and complicated but few believe it should have gone the way it did and the laws have been changed as a consequence.

To throw kids in jail is to give up. It is an abdication of our adult responsibility. And it is a shameful attempt to blame our failing on the kids. A look at the divorce, infidelity, child abuse, and abandonment rates suggests just how utterly and completely hypocritical the fine upstanding adult population is that seeks to lock up the kids for doing the same thing their parents’ generation did! Further, evidence indicates these kids want information about sex from their parents. The parents aren’t giving it!

What’s worse, instead of talking to our kids about sex, we talk about abstinence, then turn our backs on them as we sexualize, fetishize, and ogle them in every advertising, media, and pornographic (where’s the middle-aged porn?) representation of them in our culture. Then we blame them and want to lock them up for our our desires! Kids don’t need us to leer at the-they need us to talk to them!!! And they don’t need us to criminalize them because we are afraid of either our desire or theirs!!!

So, what of the legitimate interest of the law to protect young people? William Saletan wrote a piece last fall in Slate on rethinking the age of consent. “Age-span” provisions in the law have become common. Using the research that finds differences in the age of physical, cognitive and emotional readiness, he would extend those provisions accordingly and finds the beginnings of a logical scheme for regulating teen sex:

I’d draw the object line at 12, the cognitive line at 16, and the self-regulatory line at 25. I’d lock up anyone who went after a 5-year-old. I’d come down hard on a 38-year-old who married a 15-year-old. And if I ran a college, I’d discipline professors for sleeping with freshmen. When you’re 35, “she’s legal” isn’t good enough.

What I wouldn’t do is slap a mandatory sentence on a 17-year-old, even if his nominal girlfriend were 12. I know the idea of sex at that age is hard to stomach. I wish our sexual, cognitive, and emotional maturation converged in a magic moment we could call the age of consent. But they don’t.

OTHER RESOURCES: Recently John Stossel did a full hour on The Age of Consent which features 14 video reports still available online. The Midwest Teen Sex Show is a video podcast done on a shoestring budget by three 20somethings who say they’re frustrated by the relatively chaste sex-education taught in high school. Go see Juno. I sensed an emergent morality in it and the ultrasound scene is particularly relevant to this post…

N.B.: None of this is to suggest that I advocate kids having sex. I advocate sex education and adults talking appropriately with young people about sex.


WA - Juvenile sex offenders marked for life

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This is just pure insanity! Turning young kids, experimenting, into sex offenders for life. What the hell is this country coming to? Nazi Germany it looks like!

06/22/2008

Records of childhood transgressions, never sealed, limit options for adults

They were neighbors, aged 13 and 10, who played together in a toy fort at the older boy's home. But one summer afternoon, the teen began talking about masturbation, then performed oral sex on the younger boy. He said they should do it again the next day. And they did.

Soon after, two sheriff's deputies arrived at the adolescent's Eastside home to read the seventh-grader his rights. Within two months, he was a registered sex offender, convicted of first-degree child rape.

"I didn't know that what I was doing was a crime -- that's not to minimize it -- I just didn't know," said Tyler, now 23, who agreed to talk with the Seattle P-I if identified only by his middle name.

"I was just some stupid kid growing up, who had an urge and he didn't know how to cope with it. Afterward, I always wondered, 'Is there something wrong with me? Is there some malfunction in my brain? Am I a pervert?' But it was just my inability to understand what I was feeling."

Since 1997, more than 3,500 children in the state -- some as young as 10, though on average about 14 -- have been charged and convicted as felony sex offenders, a mark that remains on their records forever, barring them from careers in medicine, teaching or a host of other professions that serve the vulnerable. It also frightens many into under-the-radar housing arrangements to avoid landlords who require background checks.

"Juvenile sex offenses cannot be sealed -- ever -- and that's huge," said Kim Ambrose, a former public defender who now runs the Child and Youth Advocacy Clinic at the University of Washington School of Law. "It messes you up with any public housing or any job that allows you access to children -- teaching, coaching, shoot, even cosmetology. The only thing that's available, basically, is to get a pardon from the governor."

Washington is among the few states to include juveniles in its sex offender management plan, assessing youths with tools designed for adults and funneling them through the courts with adult-sized punishments.

Next year, those laws could become even stricter if legislators decide to implement the Adam Walsh Act. The federal legislation, which financially penalizes states that decline to apply it, requires all offenders 14 or older to register with law enforcement for at least 25 years, no matter how upstanding they may have been since their crime.

Tyler, like most youths who get treatment, has never been charged with a sexual offense again. The court sentenced him to two years in an intensive therapy program designed as an alternative to incarceration. He attended school but had to avoid sports -- counseling appointments conflicted with practice -- and he lied desperately to keep his secret from friends.

"As a 13- or 14-year-old, you're sitting there wondering if you're as much of a freak as they say you are," he said. "Are you going to be like this forever? What's going to happen in the future? It's the scariest thing you can possibly imagine."

He looks away then, this preppie young man in a North Face jacket, tears in his eyes.

Now a student at the University of Washington, Tyler has a girlfriend and tries to live as normally as possible. But the childhood record has scuttled his hopes of becoming a doctor and, by alienating him from peers who might ask too many questions, paralyzed much of his social development.

"I was arrested on a Friday morning, at home, by myself," Tyler said, his voice tight at the memory, his fingers snapping a rubber band on his wrist. "I was booked and held, handcuffed to a plastic chair. I remember overhearing one of the police officers calling my mother and telling her there was nothing she could do because her pervert son was going to go to jail.

In general, prosecutors defend their approach to offenders such as Tyler, saying the law treated juveniles too leniently before several changes were made in the 1990s. Therapists who specialize in sexual deviance also acknowledge that some youths warrant aggressive oversight -- kids who hunger for graphic details about sex acts and seem unable to control their impulses.

But these are the minority, said Tim Kahn, who has been treating such young people for nearly three decades. Most of Kahn's patients are closer to the 12-year-old boy he recently met, an elementary school student who had pulled down the panties of his 4-year-old cousin and touched her genitals with several toys. The child, who committed no other crime, is now a registered sex offender.

While supportive of laws that essentially force kids into treatment, Kahn and others wonder at the wisdom of tarring them forever with a childhood act.

"They're branded -- it's on their forehead, even if their face isn't on the Internet," said Michele Shaw, a defense attorney in Seattle who has handled hundreds of these cases. "The punishment is just never-ending."

Shaw is among a group of lawyers and therapists planning to push for new laws that would permit sealing juvenile records in certain cases.

Consequences for these youths may depend, at least in part, on a child's attorney. Jack, for instance -- also 23 and identified here by his middle name -- was discovered at 12 fondling a 5-year-old neighbor. But his lawyer was able to get a felony child molestation charge reduced to assault with sexual motivation, a misdemeanor, and the distinction allowed Jack to have his childhood record legally expunged.

He now works with youngsters at the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program in Seattle and plans to apply to medical school in the fall -- all of which would have been impossible with a felony history, even if it happened when he was 12.

"I sat down with this woman for like 15 minutes, paid her $100 and the next thing you know, my record was gone," Jack said. "If I hadn't, I know it absolutely would have prevented me from the work I'm doing now, helping kids."

Court officials, acknowledging current research that shows youths who complete sexual deviancy treatment have extremely low rates of recidivism, accept that some refinement of sex crime laws may be in order. But in the current political climate, few believe legislators will make adjustments soon.

Even prosecutors concede that the law for juvenile sex crimes sometimes acts as a bludgeon, rather than a scalpel.

"The entire purpose of the juvenile justice system is more for rehabilitation than retribution," said Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff at the Office of the King County Prosecutor, who formerly supervised juvenile sex crimes. "Has that always been accomplished? No, and that's particularly true with juvenile sex offenders."

The vast majority of these felons are rated as Level 1's -- the least likely to reoffend. In King County, for example, of 79 young sex offenders being tracked in a recent week, 84 percent fell into that category.

Yet Goodhew still supports a hard-line approach.

"Under the past system, we didn't treat these cases seriously enough," he said. "Has there been reform and increased punishment from 20 years ago? Yes, and I think that was the right move. But we should always ask, have we gone too far the other way? I don't believe we have."

Many therapists feel otherwise.

"A common misperception is that they're like adults," said Dan Knoepfler, president of the Washington Association for Treatment of Sexual Abusers. "But they're not. We're mainly talking about geeky, nerdy, socially immature kids. And so many of the factors that contribute to risk -- like where they live or how their families work -- are out of their control."

In decades past, Knoepfler said, few believed that youths committing inappropriate sex acts -- whether awkward adolescents or predatory criminals -- needed treatment. "But my sense is that now we've oversold the case," he said.

Tyler, struggling to find a way to use his talents productively -- medical school is out, a legal career may also pose problems -- agrees, with bitterness evident in his voice.

"All my ambitions are bound by a felony conviction from when I was 13 years old -- 11 years ago," he said. "I just don't want to be a felon any more. I want to wake up one day and not be a criminal, a sex offender. That, I guess, is now my ambition in life."

P-I reporter Claudia Rowe can be reached at 206-448-8320 or claudiarowe@seattlepi.com.