Monday, March 30, 2009
By Corky Siemaszko - DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Oprah Winfrey's elite boarding school for girls in South Africa has been rocked by its second sex scandal in fewer than two years.
Seven students were suspended last week for sexually harassing their schoolmates, the "Afrikaans on Sunday" newspaper reported.
One 15-year-old was accused of preying on another pupil and forcing other girls to lie to investigators about it, the paper reported.
"You have been found guilty of physical contact of a sexual nature with another pupil on campus, harassment, bullying other girls on campus and of being dishonest by not telling investigators the whole truth," a letter to her parents read.
Other girls were caught fondling each other or trying to get other girls to join them in lesbian liasons, the paper reported.
Oprah's spokesperson, Lisa Halliday, confirmed the girls had been suspended from the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy School for Girls - but gave few details.
"It is because they contravened the school's code of conduct," she said. "We regard the incident as confidential."
- Don't want to tarnish that reputation, do we?
Winfrey called it the proudest moment of her life when she opened the $46 million school near Johannesburg in January 2007 to help high achieving but poor South African girls.
Nelson Mandela dedicated the school and luminaries ranging from songbirds Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige to filmmaker Spike Lee and actor Sidney Poitier attended the opening.
The school, which aims to house 450 girls in grades 7 through 12 by 2011, offered free tuition, books and uniforms, as well as room and board.
In return, the girls were required to follow the rules.
Ten months later, Winfrey sobbed uncontrollably after 15 girls reported they had been sexually abused by a matron who was supposed to be watching over them.
The talk show queen said the sex abuse charges hit her especially hard because she was raped and molested by a cousin, uncle and family friend when she was 9.
"I am a mama bear when it comes to protecting my children," she said at the time.
"These girls are like my children. That's not just rhetoric for me. I take their futures and the possibility for what their futures hold very seriously."
Dorm matron _____, 27, was charged with indecent assault, common assault, soliciting a minor to perform an indecent act and verbal abuse of girls at the school. She denies the charges and is due back in court on June 1.
Vowing to "clean house," Winfrey also fired the school's headmistress and announced she would hand out cell phones - with her number on speed dial - to each student.
It was not clear if any students used their phones to report the latest outrage.
By BILL RANKIN - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A federal judge on Monday allowed a class-action case seeking to overturn Georgia’s tough sex offender law to go forward. The judge also barred enforcement of a provision that bans offenders from volunteering at churches.
U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper rejected attempts by the state to declare the class-action suit on behalf of 16,000 sex offenders to be unmanageable. Instead, Cooper allowed the lawsuit to proceed in “subclasses.”
These include offenders seeking to overturn a provision banning them from living within 1,000 feet of a designated school bus stop; offenders who want to volunteer at places of worship; and offenders who were convicted before the law’s passage on July 1, 2006, but were put on the sex offender registry.
Georgia’s sex offender law is one of the toughest in the nation. It prohibits most offenders from living or working within 1,000 feet of places children congregate, such as schools, parks, swimming pools and churches.
Also Monday, Cooper granted a preliminary injunction that prohibits the state from enforcing a provision in the law that bans offenders from volunteering at churches.
“Allowing plaintiffs to continue to participate in their faith communities will further public safety by providing support, stability and a grounded sense of right and wrong,” Cooper wrote.
Lawyers representing the plaintiffs presented evidence from several ministers and others who work with sex offenders about the restorative powers of faith and volunteering in faith communities, Cooper said.
Gerry Weber, a lawyer with the Southern Center for Human Rights, which filed suit on behalf of the plaintiffs, applauded the ruling.
“Georgia’s sex offender law has suffered more legal setbacks than any such law anywhere in the country,” he said. “This order should send a clear message to the General Assembly that it’s time to fix this law.”
We write today to provide you with an update on the Whitaker v. Purdue lawsuit challenging portions of Georgia’s sex offender law. Today, Judge Clarence Cooper issued an order addressing some of the issues raised at the November 13, 2008 hearing and briefed for the Court.
The attached order has three parts: class certification issues, religious freedom issues, and the State’s attempts to have the judge dismiss certain claims.
- Classes and Sub-classes: Under the district court’s order, SCHR will continue to represent the entire class of the sex offender registrants on two claims: that the sex offender law is vague and overbroad. The judge has also created certain subclasses of persons with certain types of claims, which SCHR will also represent as sub-classes, (1) for persons who seek to volunteer at, or be employed by a church; (2) for persons in counties that have designated bus stops; and (3) for persons who were convicted prior to July 1, 2006. The judge rejected our requests for subclasses for the elderly/disabled and for renters, but we will be able to continue to seek a ruling in our two named plaintiff renters’ cases that may help other renters.
- Church Volunteers and Employees: The district court granted a preliminary injunction to that part of the statute limiting volunteering or employment at churches. While a final ruling will be made on this issue, the judge’s preliminary injunction means that those provisions cannot be enforced until a final order is issued (and if the final order too is in our favor, those restrictions will no longer ever be enforceable).
- Attempts to Dismiss Part of Our Lawsuit: The judge found that certain of our plaintiffs have standing, and can continue a challenge to the restrictions on renters.
As always, we will be sure to keep you posted on any new information.
All the best,
Sara, Sarah, Gerry, James and Mica
Southern Center for Human Rights
83 Poplar St.
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 688-1202 -phone
(404) 688-9440- fax
Frequent Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton writes
"Amid the latest 'sexting' controversy, here is a proposal for a scientifically objective method to determine whether a picture constitutes child pornography. This is a harder problem than it seems, but not for the reasons you'd think. And it raises questions about how the same scientific principles could be applied to other matters of law."
Hit the link below to read the sextiest story on Slashdot today.
A county district attorney in Pennsylvania has threatened to file felony child pornography charges against three teenage girls for pictures that they took of themselves, even though the girls' lawyers say the pictures are clearly not sexually explicit and do not meet the legal definition of child porn. The American Civil Liberties Union has countered by asking a federal judge to block District Attorney George Skumanick from filing charges.
Skumanick won't show the pictures to anyone, including the girls' lawyers, but according to the reported descriptions, one picture shows two of the girls flashing the peace sign in their bras, and the other picture shows a girl wrapped in a towel with her breasts exposed after stepping out of the shower. Unless there's something very significant being deliberately left out of those descriptions, it sounds pretty obvious that the pictures do not meet the definition of child pornography, which requires sexual explicitness, not just nudity.
Skumanick may even sound like a buffoon for threatening to prosecute the girls over those pictures, but his overreaching is probably an example of the "context syndrome" that I referred to in writing about a Wikipedia article about a CD showing a naked underage girl on the cover. In that article, I wrote:
Suppose you read a news article about a man who was arrested for possession of child pornography, and you happened to see a sample of the images (never mind how) that he was arrested for. And suppose the Virgin Killer album cover photo had been mixed in with those images. Would it have jumped out at you as an obvious case of over-reaching by the police?
In other words, even an obviously legal photo might seem illegal when it's mixed in with a group of photos that constitute actual child porn. According to the AP, Skumanick's office first found the photos in question after confiscating students' cell phones and rounding up 20 students accused of making or distributing the images found on the phones. Some of those other photos were presumably racy enough to meet the definition of child pornography, and Skumanick probably just lumped in the bra and towel pictures into that category without thinking too much about it. Giving him credit, if someone had come to his office and shown him the picture of the towel girl by itself and asked him to prosecute the girl for creating child pornography, he might have said that it didn't meet the legal definition.
But the "context syndrome" only excuses the initial mistake, and only partly. By now, he's had time to think about those particular pictures, and he knows that non-sexually-explicit photos do not constitute child pornography, so what is he doing? He claims that the girls in their bras were posed "provocatively", but that's not the same as sexual explicitness, and he hasn't even made that claim about the towel picture, so unless there's some bombshell piece of information about the photos that he's still keeping secret (and why would he?), there's no excuse for him not to drop the threats of prosecution right away.
But could even the initial mistake have been avoided? I think it could have, if you designed a scientific procedure for deciding, objectively, whether an image meets the legal definition of "child pornography", by borrowing some of the principles used in police lineups.
Now, obviously one big difference between deciding if the right suspect has been identified in a lineup, and deciding whether an image constitutes child pornography, is that the question of a suspect's identity in a lineup is a question about objective reality, while the question of whether an image is "child pornography" is a matter of opinion and consensus about an imprecisely defined English phrase, so it may sound odd to try and find a "scientifically objective" answer. But by "objective", I mean that the procedure should eliminate the influence of factors that are not relevant to the legal definition of child pornography (for example, if asking someone to decide if they think a picture meets the definition, don't tell them whether the photo was found in a pedophile's basement or in a parent's photo album, because under the strict legal definition, that shouldn't matter). And by "scientific", I mean that the Yes/No answers returned by the procedure should be repeatable as far as possible, so that different defendants aren't being tried under wildly different standards, where Bob is convicted of possessing an innocuous photo while Alice is acquitted even though she possessed a racier one.
A naive solution, from a scientific point of view, would be to poll a random sample of lawyers or other professionals in a police go-to database, and ask them to evaluate whether the picture is child pornography, without any information about where the picture came from. These results would be objective (if the respondents didn't know the source of the picture), and would generally be repeatable, if the sample size is large enough. The problem with this method is that while all defendants would be held to the same standard, all citizens would not be. Suppose the lawyers in the go-to list start to decide, as many of them probably would, that anybody who is being prosecuted for possessing a picture of a topless underage girl is probably a pedophile creep anyway, and would start voting "child pornography" for all but the most obviously legal pictures. The prosecutor would realize this, and would know that they could threaten to ruin people's lives by charging them with possession of child pornography because of pictures found in their possession -- even while other members of society possessed similar pictures without ever being charged.
Here's where the analogy to a police lineup comes in. Police lineups are supposed to include "known innocent" candidates in order to test the credibility of the eyewitness; if the eyewitness selects a candidate who could not have possibly committed the crime (because, for example, they were in jail), then the police know the eyewitness is not reliable. (This was one guideline notoriously violated by District Attorney Mike Nifong in the Duke lacrosse team rape trial; he assembled a lineup consisting only of lacrosse team members from the party, so that whomever the eyewitness identified was guaranteed to fall under a cloud of suspicion.) In the same vein, the lawyers or other experts being consulted by the police could be shown a "lineup" of photos, consisting of several photos that were determined in advance to be legal (either because of a prior court ruling, or perhaps just because the D.A. had declined to prosecute the photos on previous occasions), along with the photo whose legality was in question. Ask the experts to pick which photo they think is closest to the definition of child pornography. Unless most of them pick the photo that's on trial, then that photo can't be said to be worse than any of the other photos that had already been deemed legal.
This is closer to a fair solution, but there's still a big loophole. When police assemble candidates for a lineup, they are supposed to pick candidates who match the general physical description given by the eyewitness. If the eyewitness said they were attacked by a redhead, the police can't fill out the lineup with one redheaded suspect that they want to railroad, and 10 blondes. Because attributes like "Caucasian" and "redhead" are pretty straightforward, if the rules for lineups are being enforced properly, the police don't have a lot of wiggle room to fill out the lineup with candidates who blatantly don't match the description. Unfortunately, it would be a lot easier to cheat when creating a "lineup" of photos to compare against a photo whose owner was on trial for possessing child pornography. If the photo at issue is probably legal but still provocative, then the police could fill out the rest of the lineup with completely non-sexual but perhaps eyebrow-raising photos, like a naked teenage girl watering some houseplants. Then when the police ask, "Which of these does not belong?", everybody would pick the provocative one, and the police would take that as "vindication".
The only way I can think of to guard against this, would be to let the defense counsel pick the other photos in the lineup, and then they could pick the most "provocative" ones that were still legal! For any photos that have been declared legal in the past, the defense ought to be able to argue that if an independent panel of experts doesn't think their client's pictures are any worse than those, then their client should not be prosecuted either. (If the defense lawyer decided their client was a child molester and wanted to throw them to the wolves, they could deliberately pick non-sexual photos for the lineup, so that their client's photo gets pegged as the odd one out -- but when the defense lawyer decides to railroad their own client, it's almost impossible for the system to guard against that anyway. Also, it's probably not a good idea to make this an option for child pornography defendants who decide to represent themselves, so that they can rifle through thousands of photographs of naked children, even legal ones, to find the pictures that they think are the "sexiest" to use for their defense.)
Perhaps someone can think of a better method that is still roughly scientific, in the sense of trying everyone according to the same standard and giving repeatable results. The irony is that despite the potential of child pornography charges to destroy a person's life, it is in possible in principle to try child pornography cases more objectively than almost any other type of crime, because you can separate out the alleged criminal act from everything else about the defendant, and let people examine the evidence of criminality in isolation. If someone shoots a person and claims it was self-defense, it's hard to imagine how you could distill out only the relevant facts of the case, and pass along just those facts to some third-party observer who then renders a judgment without knowing anything else. Half the courtroom battle is over what facts are "relevant" in the first place. But in the case of a child pornography charge, you can give the photo -- and no other information -- to an expert, and ask them to make a judgment.
I know, I know. The police and prosecutors are not actually doing to do this. But that in itself says something. Even if it's not possible to try most crimes in a truly objective fashion, why don't the courts and the police do this when it is possible? Many first-year psychology students that have an intuitive grasp of the principles of sound double-blind testing, could probably come up with a procedure better than the one I've described. When you've spent long enough thinking about how to design experiments objectively, you can't even hear about lawyers arguing over whether a photo constitutes child pornography, without the thought popping into your head: "Have a group of experts look at the photo and rate it, independently of each other. Compare the results to a 'control' result where the experts look at a photo that is not child pornography." And so on. Why don't those suggestions ever come from within the legal profession itself?
And on the flip side, what about using scientific methods to examine facts about the legal system? When considering that judges are tasked with evaluating parties' claims in an objective and fair manner, one could ask: Are they really being objective? What are different ways that we could test this? Perhaps by having two actors in different courtrooms on the same day, charged with exactly the same crime under the same circumstances, except one is black and the other is white, and repeat the experiment many times to see if they receive different average sentences. For a scientist, the idea is the most natural thing in the world. Forget the fact that the legal system doesn't do this -- why is virtually nobody in the legal profession even suggesting it?
Probably because most people who think in terms of objective experimental design are drawn towards the hard sciences, not toward law. That's probably a good thing; such people can likely do more good as physicists and research psychologists than they could as lawyers and policemen. But they can still speak out for the principles of science to be applied wherever possible, in any area where objectivity is important -- especially the law.
All true scientists at heart should keep telling the world that "science" is not just a label that encompasses nerd subjects like biology, physics, and chemistry, with other subjects like art and law being "outside the domain of science". While the statements made within the framework of those subjects are not scientific ("This painting is pretty", "The court finds the defendant not liable", etc.), science can make statements about the people in those professions and the patterns in the conclusions that they reach. If art experts are evaluating paintings differently depending on whether they think the paintings come from an art gallery or a 4-year-old's kitchen table, you could find that out through a scientific experiment. If judges are giving an easier time to lawyers than they are to parties who represent themselves, even when they make exactly identical arguments, you could test that hypothesis with an experiment, too. And scientific principles could be used to draw up procedures for trying cases more objectively, as in the procedure for deciding the legality of sexting photographs. We just need to get over the idea that "scientists" should limit themselves to the forensic CSI stuff and then stay away from the legal arena because that's a "separate domain". Science could tell us quite a lot about how fairly justice is dispensed in the courtroom, and sometimes even how to fix the problems.
View the article here
Not all sex offenders are barred!
See the 2nd link above. Seems like people like Eric would do a little more homework before making ignorant comments like he does. Not all offenders are barred from housing, just some.
By Lore Croghan - DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Councilman Eric Gioia (Email) is adamant about where New York's most dangerous sex offenders should not live - city housing projects.
But when asked to suggest neighborhoods where they might reside he couldn't come up with a single suggestion.
"I don't think government should be telling people where to live," Gioia offered.
- I agree, so stop doing it! So, you are showing your hypocrisy. Above you don't want them living in city housing projects, then you mention government should not be telling people where to live!
For the third year in a row, Gioia (D-Queens) released a report Sunday detailing the number of registered sex offenders illegally living in public housing.
Federal law and New York City Housing Authority policy bars registered offenders from living in subsidized housing.
This year the number jumped to 126 offenders, up 12% from last year. In 2006, Gioia found 200 registered offenders in public housing.
Forty-two of the city's 3,432 registered sex offenders live in projects in Brooklyn, according to the new report. There are 37 in Manhattan public housing, 36 are in the Bronx, eight are in Queens and three are in Staten Island.
"We are implicitly saying to the poorest among us, 'We're sorry, but we will warehouse the most violent predators in New York City next to you and we won't even tell about it,'" Gioia said.
A Housing Authority spokeswoman defended the agency's efforts.
"When NYCHA is notified by the NYPD that an individual is a registered sex offender who is living in public housing, tenancy proceedings are begun to remove them," spokeswoman Millie Molina said.
By Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
It is said by physiologists that the human brains are not fully developed until the child has become an adult. Teenagers do not have full cognitive powers, which is a good reason to keep them minors, without the full right of self-determination that adults have. Also, teenagers have not had sufficient life experience to enable them to make sound judgments. They can be easily swayed by impulsive emotions and giddy feelings. Teenagers need to be seasoned by sadness and hard times in order to gain perspective.
The “teenager” is an artificial construct of modern society. In ancient times, there were no teenagers. A boy of age 13 would be initiated into manhood. He would become apprenticed to learn a trade, or he would become a worker on the farm. When they were able to have children, girls would be initiated into womanhood and get married. They would not go on dates and to teenage drinking parties. The parents or matchmakers would select their mates, and their sexual drives would be satisfied in marriage. Having children would make the young parents responsible adults. The community would be the village, not the teenage party.
Today’s teenage culture is a product of mass society, compulsory schooling, and the government dominance of education. Put a mass of teenagers together, and we get trouble, folks. We get youth gangs. Force them to sit silently in rows in a dull classroom, and we get drug abuse. Tell them not to have sex, while they can’t stop thinking about it, and we get teen pregnancies.
There are good things, too, in teenage culture. We get rock and roll, dancing, and science projects. But good times can get wild, because of teenage mass psychology. Human beings are genetically programmed to use tools, and children instinctively love to use ever better tools. The human mind is also programmed to seek communication. The combination of communication and technology has irresistible power. That is why teenagers are constantly sending one another texts, photos, and videos.
Another human instinct is to seek sensation. The young especially have energy, and they seek excitement, especially after sitting in rows in a classroom doing dreary drills for the next standardized test. Afterwards, you just want to get out and scream. Since teenage brains are still not fully developed, and since they seek sensation, and have their camera phones, and want to do something wild and cool, they take naked pictures of themselves and send them to their friends. They post them in the social web sites of the Internet.
The instinct of government official is to maximize power. Government officials respond to teenage foolishness by coming down with the heavy hammer of the state. District attorneys are prosecuting teenagers for producing, distributing, and viewing child pornography when the pictures they send depict mere nudity. School officials have been working with district attorneys by confiscating students’ cell phones. Government chiefs and school administrators claim that mere nakedness is inherently pornographic. If that is so, that would also apply to nude adults. By that standard, any nude photograph or painting would constitute pornography.
Catholic churches usually have statues and pictures of cherubs, chubby naked babies or young children with angel wings. As interpreted by today’s law enforcement, all these cherubs are child pornography, and the clergy should be put in prison for life for showing them.
Government officials are branding 14-year old children who take nude pictures of themselves as sex offenders. This is contrary to previous laws that made a clear distinction between mere nudity and sex. Sex is an activity, a behavior, whereas the unclothed body is not behavior, but a state of being.
Government chiefs call the sending of electronic nude pictures “sexting,” from “texting,” sending text messages. But if the subject is merely nude, “sexting” is misnamed. They should call it “textnuding.” By calling it “sexting,” government chiefs are able to make it a sexual crime.
District attorneys are now being sued by students, parents, and the ACLU, for charging teenagers with child pornography. All of this legal action will clog the courts and divert law enforcement from concentrating on the real dangers of criminal gangs that are terrorizing neighborhoods and invading homes.
If convicted, the teenager not only can be punished with prison for many years, but also becomes branded as a sex offender for life. They have to register with the state and be subject to the restrictions under Megan’s Law, including restrictions on where they can live. Surveys have found that about a fifth of teenagers have sent nude photos of themselves, which would make twenty percent of the future population sex offenders according to current legal practice.
Of course teenagers need to be educated to avoid such foolish acts. After their silly photo is in the Internet, they may never be able to get a good job or enter a good school. But the way to educate teenagers is not by criminal prosecution. That will just bring rebellion. If criminal prosecution prevented foolishness, teenagers would not be getting drunk or taking bad drugs. Nude-picture prohibition will be no more effective than alcohol and marijuana prohibition.
Government’s clumsy and cruel response to textnuding will clog the legal system and create far worse problems than the teenage foolishness. Government chiefs are not just cruel, but more foolish than the silly teenagers. However, the district attorneys will not be able to resist their drive to exert power, since government picks up the tab when district attorneys get sued.
By Dennis Culver
After six months in jail on charges of sexual assault on a girl, Port Charlotte resident John Joseph Reeves was released March 13 - after his accuser changed significant parts of her story.
The arrest, Reeves said, has ruined him, costing him his job, truck, apartment and six months of his life.
Now, Reeves, 42, wants to know how he could have been charged with such a crime, with no evidence other than the claims of the girl.
The supposed abuse took place in 2000, when the girl was 4, but it wasn't reported until 2008.
"The system is out there to protect the children, but it also needs to protect citizens," Reeves said. "As a parent, we need strong laws, but how far do we go? Somebody needs to be held accountable."
- Yeah, the one who made up the lies! Why do we not prosecute those who make false claims? If we did, then they'd be less likely to make stuff up.
The accuser in this case is the daughter of Reeves' ex-wife. The two were married in 2000 but only lived together on Pine Island for about two months before he moved out.
According to the arrest warrant issued July 9, 2008, the complaint against Reeves was made Feb. 29, 2008. During an interview with the Florida Department of Children and Families, the girl, now 13, said Reeves took her into a bedroom, touched her and placed his genitals on her stomach.
"I was accused of doing some pretty horrible things, which I didn't do," Reeves said.
- So take them to court for defamation!
According to DCF spokeswoman Erin Gillespie, the agency was called to the home in 2008 and verified a finding of sexual abuse. A warrant for Reeves' arrest was issued based on an interview with the girl, who reported that Reeves had sexually abused her between August and October 2000.
- And they based this "verified" abuse on what evidence? Someone's made up story!
According to the sheriff's office warrant request, a local records check on Reeves revealed he no longer lived in Florida, so detectives were not able to interview him about the allegations.
Further complicating matters, there was no physical evidence because so much time had passed between the alleged incident and the complaint.
Reeves said his name was brought up by the girl when her mother found her in a closet with a naked younger nephew the girl was baby sitting.
- Sounds like childhood experimentation with sex, and the girl was probably scared, so she made up a story to get out of being punished!
Reeves said the girl gave his name when his ex-wife confronted her about the incident and asked if she had ever been sexually abused.
Attempts to contact Reeves' ex-wife by phone were unsuccessful.
At the time of the accusations, Reeves was working for a painting company in Boston.
He was pulled over by authorities there Sept. 10 for running a stop sign. When they checked his information, the arrest warrant appeared.
"They told me I was a fugitive sex offender from Florida," Reeves said.
- Fugitive sex offender? He has not even been charged with a crime, and they already label him a sexual offender. Unbelievable, well, actually it's not unbelievable!
He was arrested and charged with one count of capital sexual battery on a victim younger than 12. If he had been convicted, he could have faced life in prison.
"I was in dismay," Reeves said. "I couldn't believe it. I'm no saint, but I would never do something like this."
Reeves said he then spent the next month in a Boston jail waiting to be extradited to Florida.
He was brought to the Lee County Jail on Oct. 11 and detained with other sex offenders.
"When you're in that sex block, you are treated worse than murderers, and you haven't even been convicted yet," he said.
He wasn't able to contact his wife, who lives in Thailand with his child. Reeves had lived there but came back to the United States in 2006 to help care for his ailing father.
"For those three months, my wife had no word from me," Reeves said. "She didn't know what happened to me."
After six months, Reeves' lawyer told him the charges were dropped.
- So he spent 6 months in jail for something he did not even do, just some made up accusation! So you see, if you have a nice job, and you tick off your wife, ex-wife, or child, this could be you next!
"He told me she admitted she lied under oath, and you're out of here," Reeves said. It was during a deposition about two weeks ago that the girl recanted major parts of her story.
- So making false accusations should be a crime, and the girl and possibly the wife, if it's known if she coaxed the child to lie, should be put into jail for the same amount of time, and in the sex offender section, to see what it's like!
Assistant State Attorney Dennis Wallace II said that when an underage victim alleges sexual abuse, prosecutors have to assess the case carefully. In this situation, there was no physical evidence or witnesses. Only the girl's sister and aunt could testify the girl told them of the alleged abuse.
- So then they did not assess the case carefully, now did they? They ruined a man based on lies!
"It's very, very difficult," Wallace said. "It's always a consideration what's going on with a kid in their life."
- The kid was found naked with a nephew, so that seems pretty obvious to me what was going on, yet the police blame someone else! Insane!
Wallace said the girl didn't recant all of her previous statements, but did so on major facts. Without her as a good witness, the case crumbled.
"Sometimes when there isn't proof beyond a reasonable doubt, we can't go forward," Wallace said.
- So this man sat in jail for 6 months based on lies, and had his life ruined! So much for speedy trials and innocent until proven guilty!
State attorney's office spokeswoman Samantha Syoen said there was enough evidence, initially, to pursue the case.
- What evidence? Hearsay? Just because someone says they were abused, doesn't mean it is always true!
But during a 25-minute deposition, the girl answered "I don't know" to many of the defense attorney's and prosecutor's questions. She said she didn't remember talking to anyone from the Child Advocacy Center, which helps investigate abuse cases, a year earlier. At one point during the taped statement, she provided lurid details, but within a few minutes, she said she couldn't provide any more.
As Wallace, the prosecutor, began questioning her, the girl shut down.
- So did this girl have her mother or some parent present during this interrogation? We know, from many studies, that is it very easy to persuade some child into false accusations, just read this story, and see the video.
"Do you remember talking to a lady named Sarah, sitting on a couch with her discussing this and it was videotaped?" Wallace asked.
"No," she said. "I really don't remember."
"How can you not remember? It's only a year ago," Wallace asked.
"I have short-term memory loss or something," she said. "But I don't remember any of that."
In that same interview, the girl said she didn't know exactly what happened during the incident and didn't know if Reeves did in fact put his genitals on her stomach.
She also said he never touched her, according to the deposition.
Fort Myers defense attorney Gary Bass, who is not connected to this case, said situations in which alleged victims and perpetrators have conflicting stories are difficult for prosecutors. Often, Bass said, the decision to prosecute comes down to feelings.
"A lot of it depends on the prosecutor's belief," he said. "To me, it's amazing that these cases get prosecuted."
- And this is where the problem lies. Prosecutors are there to get a conviction, period, and of course they are going to believe a child, even if they have conflicting stories.
What he lost
Though the charge against Reeves has been dropped, he said the ordeal has ruined his life.
"I went in jail when I had an absolutely incredible job, and now I get out of jail and there are 400 applications for a dishwasher job," he said.
Reeves' father died while he was in jail.
"They took away something I can never get back, and that's time with my father," he said.
Reeves said his name also has been smeared.
An arrest for the abuse is still on his record, and he said it's going to cost him between $3,000 and $5,000 to get it expunged.
- So I'd sue the ex-wife, and make her pay to have this done!
"Anyone who might know me and knows about the story, if they don't talk to me about it, it might be in the back of their head that I got off on a technicality," he said.
Reeves said he plans on returning to Thailand to be with his wife and child, but he's not sure when that will be and whether the arrest will affect his visa.
He said he hasn't been offered any restitution and is considering a lawsuit. He's still searching for a lawyer to help.
- Good, he needs to sue them for defamation, lawyer fees, pain, suffering, etc!
"I spent six months in that jail going to bed and waking up thinking I was going away for the rest of my life for something I didn't do," Reeves said. "No matter where I go and what I do, this charge will follow me."