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Ethical Treatment for All Youth

Email: etay@ethicaltreatment.org

About the author


My son is a convicted sex offender. A felon at the age of 14.

Two years ago, I got a call from the principal at my son's school. He informed me that two detectives were there and wanted to talk to my son about an assault. The principal told the detectives they could not talk to him without my permission. The detectives told him they had the right to interview him without my permission but they would respect his wishes and wait for me to get to the school. I couldn't imagine how an assault could happen since I take him to school and pick him up.

When I got to school, the detectives told me my son was being accused of a sexual assault. I said, "I know who it is." Needless to say they were very surprised I knew who it was. I then went on to explain that a younger boy had been grabbing my son's crotch since he was six. I explained to them that my son had had problems with this boy and his sexual aggressiveness but we thought it was just something this boy would grow out of and told our son to just tell him not to do this grabbing thing.

The detectives told me it didn't matter that this younger boy started this contact or not, it was the age difference that was the problem. Over two years age difference, and it's illegal contact.

My husband arrived and talked to them briefly before they interviewed my son. The detectives interviewed him for about 45 minutes. They told us that my son had confessed to this contact. He confessed to anal sex even though we found out later he had no clue what it was--and didn't do it.

They said that this would probably end up in counseling. I once again described the younger boy's sexual maturity and aggression toward my son. One detective said she had noticed that when the victim had been interviewed by a crisis counselor. That's when she said this would probably end up in counseling. Before they left, they told me to watch him, don't leave him alone because they were worried about his emotional state. But in their report, they didn't mention the fact that I had told them who the victim was or anything about the younger boy's history.

So I took him home and immediately questioned him about what had happened. He explained what had been going on for four months. How it started; what type of games they would play. They were sexual, role playing games. The younger boy asked my son if he would like to play a game he played with his other friends. I believe it started out innocent with clothes on and as time went on the contact turned into masturbation. There was no anal or oral contact.

When the mother of this younger boy had found her son in her basement with his pants down - my son was on another floor - she wanted my son charged with rape and wanted immediate incarceration. She took her son to the hospital to get checked out. There had been no bruising or anal penetration. In the police report taken at the hospital, the police officer noted that the parents were very upset, didn't know what to do, and were arguing. The victim was quiet. The parents requested that the officer arrest the offender immediately. The officer said that wouldn't be a good idea. The detectives in charge of sex crimes would have to speak to him first.

The victim's mother started contacting the detectives to see what had been done. Three days later she took her son down to hospital that specializes in victims of sexual crimes and he was interviewed. Almost a week later was when they interviewed my son. In the meantime, the victim's mother had given a detailed statement to the prosecutor about the torture that her son had endured over the past four years by my son. She said that my son had been raping her son since he was six. She described my son as violent, manipulative, and a sexual deviant who robbed her child of his youth and innocence. I believe the reason the mother went back to the age of six as the beginning of her son's sexual abuse was because her son had been acting out sexually since that time and had complaints from other kids and families about his behavior.

I brought this point up with the detectives, but they said it didn't matter because of the age difference. My son's crime was sexual contact with a boy three years younger.

We did all the "right" things we were supposed to do. Well, almost. We got our son a therapist and started the evaluation process. We tried to be nice to his probation officer. Don't make any waves was the theme of our case. Don't say anything confrontational or they'll be harder on him. Well, my son never seemed to have a chance. Even though he was honest and had confessed his "crime" to the detectives immediately, the State focused on his statement "the younger boy started it" and accused him of denial.

It's my understanding that diversion is an alternative to prosecution and should be considered in every juvenile case. My son met all the criteria for diversion. It wasn't even considered. The state did everything they could to see that my son was jailed for two years. The only saving grace was -- I believe the judge had problems with some of the unbelievable information she was receiving and granted him community treatment.

But all through this I couldn't imagine that my son could be put in jail. I found out later that was a real possibility. Our lawyer was inexperienced and not very aggressive. He thought our best bet was to shut up and take it. My son had been evaluated and was in treatment with a sex offender provider. He passed two polygraph tests and his MMPI tests were normal. The evaluator believed that he was naive and was telling the truth about what happened. He submitted letters to the court with his conclusion.

I wanted to go to trial. I was the only one who wanted to go to trial. Our lawyer had an interview scheduled with the victim and his family and then the prosecutor offered a plea if we agreed to not interview the family. Instead of two counts of rape she would lower it to one count of Rape of a Child in the 1st degree and one count of Child Molestation. She said if we didn't take the plea and if we went to trial the community based treatment would be off the table. Our son could go to jail for a long time. We couldn't take the chance of losing the community based treatment and we took the deal.

My son went to court and pleaded guilty. When we went to sign the papers we noticed that the date the crime occurred was over a four year period. We said that was not right and we wouldn't sign it. It was a four month span. The prosecutor agreed to knock off two years. Our lawyer said that was okay because it encompassed the four months of the contact (?!).

We went before the judge and then the prosecutor wanted to have our son evaluated by their state evaluator before they would recommend community treatment. That wasn't mentioned as part of the plea deal. They didn't believe our evaluator's conclusion. Then I knew we were in trouble. The cards had been stacked against us from the very beginning.

My son's therapist wanted to know who was going to do the evaluation. When he found out who it was, he told us to insist on someone else. I talked to the probation officer about a change and she said it was up to her who evaluated my son. I found out later that wasn't true. We had a choice.

Well, my son was evaluated by this doctor for four hours. I did bring along my son's polygraph and he spent the entire four hours going through every point, accusing my son of lying about almost everything. In fact, he told us how successful he was in getting the truth out of kids. He said, "You'll be amazed to find out what your son has been doing without your knowledge." He was going to "break him."

When my son came out of his office, he looked upset. The doctor asked if we could come back the following day because he didn't finish. We said sure. My son, crying, asked me if he should tell this doctor what he wanted to hear. Which was, I have a hundred other victims, and I initiated contact with the younger kid. I told him if that's what happened, tell him. But don't lie just to make him happy. I knew I was setting him up for a bumpy ride. This guy was not going to give my son a good evaluation.

So we returned to the doctor's office. He questioned him a little more, and came out of his office and said, that's it. He (the doctor) was angry and wouldn't look at me. I guess it didn't turn out like he had planned.

Our lawyer got the evaluation, read it, and said it looks good. There wasn't anything wrong with the MMPI's or the polygraph test. He wasn't worried. I was.

We were down to the last minute before sentencing, waiting for the evaluator's recommendation, and we found out that he was not recommending community treatment. So, he didn't believe his own tests. He said that my son was so deviant that he knew how to pass polygraph tests, and knew how to look good on personality tests. He said he was so dangerous that no other sexual deviancy provider would allow him in their program. He certainly wouldn't want him. The prosecutor reiterated this point to push for jail time. His statement wasn't true, because we had already contacted another state-approved therapist who said he would counsel him (and who later did).

Because of what the other boy's family said about us, we had to move out of our neighborhood, and my son was expelled from the Catholic high school he had worked hard at getting in to. We were divided up as a family. My husband stayed in our house and the rest of us moved in with my mother.

That move meant we were going to change counties. So our entire case was moved to another county and they paid for my son's treatment and assigned a new probation officer.

That was probably the best thing that could have happened. We were treated with common sense. They had a different opinion about the whole incident even after they read all the various reports and things have been okay here.

My son's treatment focuses on empathy and thinking errors. Most of the boys in his group have ADD. I think there are two boys that don't have it, and my son is one of them. I believe that there are a total of five or six groups of kids with about 10 - 12 in each. The youngest is six years old all the way up to adults. There's a girl in my son's group, she's also a felon. I think she's 13.

I think my son's counselor is understanding, and he believes my son's accounts of what happened, but I believe he has to walk a thin line between the legal aspect of this and the realistic aspect of the offense. He is well-known and is on the State's list of acceptable providers so I don't know how vocal he would be in righting the wrong done to my son. He has petitioned the legislature to change sex offender laws, with no luck.

I have a feeling that the State isn't going to be happy with the outcome of my son's therapy. Now that my son is in community treatment -- which the prosecutors did not want because he was a danger to the community -- the truth has come out. My son was telling the truth. There were no other victims. The younger boy did initiate the sexual contact. My son is not a sexual deviant nor will he ever be.

That's something we were not and are still not allowed to say out loud. Denial. We were never in denial. We were forced to hold our thoughts to ourselves to save our son from even worse punishment.

My husband wrote an extensive letter to the judge that presided over my son's case. In his letter he explained the bias the prosecutor had against my son. The prosecutor, probation officer, and court appointed evaluator were relentless. And they had no proof except the word of a disturbed boy and his mother.

I contacted the presiding judge about my husband's letter and she responded saying that she couldn't comment about the new facts presented about the case without everybody concerned being present. I took that as a good sign. But I don't know what to do about it.

A year ago I spent a weekend back at our house, and the victim's family called the police, saying they had seem my son running up and down the front stairs and wanted him arrested. Well, he was far away with about 100 witnesses that would have testified to that. In fact, we had a few families write letters to the detective in charge of that case stating that fact and the case was closed.

There is so much to our story and so many bizarre things that happened that defy logic that it's frustrating. My conclusion is that the State does not care one wit about the true facts of the case. There was the illegal age difference between the boys, that makes it illegal. That's it.

The gist of our story is this: My son was naive but wanted to know about sex. He trusted this kid and their personal relationship. Told the truth throughout the proceedings. Got treated like a hardened criminal. Is a felon for life. And is now having a problem with depression. My son's also gained 60 pounds, doesn't play sports anymore, and is afraid to leave the house. So we're looking for a psychiatrist now.

Submitted July 10, 2004