Attention Governor Perdue: Please Stand Up And Be The Needed Adult In The Room

Dear Governor Perdue,

Tomorrow, you will be joined in Perry by literally thousands and admirers and well wishers. You will hopefully have the luxury of enjoying the day knowing you will not be on the ballot in 2010, and can just have “real” conversations with your friends instead of guarded, political ones. It should be fun.

While you’re having your shindig, Wendy Whitaker will be in a Columbia County Jail. She will be there because she was forced to move from a home she and her husband owned because 12 years ago, when she was in high school, she and a classmate engaged in oral sex.

Because of this action as a teenager, Mrs. Whitaker must now register as a sex offender. Despite that she has since lived a pretty normal life, her commission of a pretty normal act in high-school has branded her for her remaining days.

Unfortunately, the product of our system of elections is politicians trying to out “tough on crime” the next guy. And as such, we look at criminals, especially certain classes of criminals, as nameless, faceless beings who deserve whatever we can dream up. And in our quest to punish these folks for our own political benefit, we don’t look close enough at loopholes and unintended consequences that drag otherwise normal people into these classes of no return.

Until such time our politicians can act like adults when deciding on punishments and sentencing, and specifically, learn the difference between someone who commits a sexual act and is a sexual predator, we’re going to need someone to be the adult in the room.

Wendy does not deserve to be a political issue for the 2010 race. The candidates looking to fill your shoes don’t need to be asked if they want to let her get on with her life, or use her to send a message that we will remain tough on crime. Wendy did something she regrets 12 years ago, but she did her time. She should be allowed to move on.

Governor Perdue, it is time to transcend political posturing and judge what is right in this case. Unfortunately, you don’t have the power of either commuting her sentence or issuing a pardon. That power is with the pardons and paroles board. Unless they can be persuaded to do the right thing, the power lies in the state legislature.

A proper, long term fix for Wendy and any others like her will require use of actual political capital would be to get the General Assembly to differentiate between those who commit a questionable sexual act, and those who are sexual predators. In a legislative session during an election year, this may be a bridge too far, but it is the proper, right, and just road to take.

You will not be on the ballot in 2010, if ever again. You don’t have to worry about how this looks politically. You just need to decide what is right, and what is just.

25 comments

  1. You will not be on the ballot in 2010, if ever again. You don’t have to worry about how this looks politically. You just need to decide what is right, and what is just.

    Let me get this correct… Professional politicians can only do what is “right” and “just” if they’re not going to remain in office or run for future office… That’s a great incentive to vote for an alternative.

    Wendy does not deserve to be a political issue for the 2010 race.

    If this isn’t fixed… I guarantee you, it will be!

  2. Rick Day says:

    Icarus, with all due respects you are a frikkin’ dreamer.

    NO ONE IN GOVERNMENT EVER ADMITS THEY WERE WRONG ABOUT ANY THING.

    Elected or not, they simply REFUSE to do the right thing.

  3. Doug Deal says:

    Ic, if you need a date that bad, there are easier ways to git ‘er done.

    Seriously though. This is the perfect example as to why pandering feel good laws are always failures. If these people are truly dangers to society, they should be in jail, perhaps for life. If they are not, they should be allowed to live their life with dignity.

  4. Red Phillips says:

    There is almost always “more to the story” in cases like these where charges are brought. In most cases like this, both sets of parents are “shocked and outraged” that their little angels would do such a thing and ground them. For it to reach the legal system there are usually other circumstances. Hopefully that other circumstance is not just that the younger teens parents are vindictive and pursue the matter. (“My little angel would never do such a thing. That other perverted kid must have coerced them.”)

    But that said, there is something categorically different between underage teens being naughty and sexual predators. The law really should be able to make this distinction. Something like a relative age of consent in addition to an absolute age of consent. But problem is who wants to champion legislation that their opponent could use as evidence that they are “soft on pedophiles.”

    The perils of democracy.

    • For it to reach the legal system there are usually other circumstances. Hopefully that other circumstance is not just that the younger teens parents are vindictive and pursue the matter.

      After a Summer interning with the Public Defender’s office, I would wager that this was pretty much it. Maybe 1 out 3 (at most) registered sex offenders I saw were actually predators or a danger to anyone. But they are branded for life, and face 10 year sentences if they ever slip up on the silliest of technicalities. I saw people jailed for years because they went to Florida for the weekend and the right bureaucrat didn’t get a memo.

      I saw another person charged because they registered upon their release from jail, but “annual registration near your birthday” includes the same year you first registered. Their birthday was a month or two after they registered, and they didn’t turn around and re-register that next month. Insane. The original crime? Sex with a teenage boy… this offender was a young female! Clearly (sarcasm) she should go to prison for registering in June and not July.

  5. Bill Greene says:

    “Governor Perdue, it is time to transcend political posturing and judge what is right in this case. Unfortunately, you don’t have the power of either commuting her sentence or issuing a pardon.”

    I thought the Governor of Georgia had state Constitutional power to pardon and commute?

    • Icarus says:

      I am told that he does not, and that power to do so was transferred to the Board Of Pardons And Paroles when it was created in the 50’s.

      • The Comma Guy says:

        The power to pardon and parole was placed in the hands of an independent body to avoid the corruption in the Governor’s office from folks selling pardons. Once placed on under sentence, the Governor only has political power that he can assert on folks to change the sentence but no actual power. It’s one of the reasons I laugh openly at folks who threaten to “write the Governor” to get a sentence overturned. It’s like complaining to Ronald when you get a bad burger. It also scares me how little educated people really know the inter-workings of the process.

        The OP is great and I think it says a lot of the right and correct things. But as noted below this post, everyone is on board but the correct people. If you don’t like a law, don’t run to the courts to get them to rewrite it – look what has happened. Instead, pick up the phone or save your comment until you see your State Rep or Sen in the Kroger and then give them your mind on the issue. To “fix” this law, the House and Senate need to be assured that going “soft” on sex offenders is not going to cost them their positions come November.

  6. GOPGeorgia says:

    I am not a fan of making laws for individuals. We should make laws with society in mind. I like the fact that a board of pardons and paroles has that power instead of the governor. See Gov. Ray Blanton of TN for why. I agree that General Assembly should differentiate between those who commit a questionable sexual act, and those who are sexual predators.

      • GOPGeorgia says:

        Grift,

        I may not have explained my thoughts correctly. Mrs. Whitaker may be a fine person, but I don’t want to hear about the Whitaker bill, the Brady bill, or Megan’s law. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want Meagan’s law enacted and I don’t agree with what it is designed to do, it just means I’d rather see called as the child endangerment act.

        We needs laws that help all of society, or at least selected portions, not that just help one individual. the founders didn’t pass “the Aaron Burr can’t challenge Alexander Hamilton to a duel law,” they passed laws against murder and treason, which he was not convicted of.

        Do you understand my meaning better now?

        • griftdrift says:

          I do and I should have been clearer as well.

          I was talking about the power of the pardon being with the executive.

          I understand that it is a weird power, the last vestige of the King so to speak, but it has always struck me as much stranger that in Georgia we give the power to a secretive star chamber with little oversight.

          • Game Fan says:

            No doubt a “star chamber” which can be swayed by political pressure. Politicians. They’re everywhere. Bureaucrats, Judges, C.E.O.s, corporate executives, ect… How sickening. Expecting politicians to utilize rational thought processes or “doing the right thing” without sticking their finger in the air is a rather high expectation. Too high for many.

  7. Dave Bearse says:

    I think requiring people to move from the homes they have owned and resided, draconian or not with respect to offender details, constitutes a government taking of property worthy of compensation.

  8. joannem says:

    I agree, and have written to several politicians in March 2009 on the State as well as the Federal level as well as the Attorney General to revisit, re-review AND revise the Sex Offender Law, pornography law and the Terroristic Threat law as well. Heard back quickly from the Atty General and he said he forwarded my letter and request to State politicians in GA, the same ones I had already written to and emailed. I heard back from Congressman Westmoreland and he said State of GA officials must fix these Laws and he too forwarded my concerns and email on to officials he felt could address this matter….It is now going into September and I never heard back from anyone on this matter. Attorney JTom Morgan, the former DA of Dekalb County, who is probably one of the best Juvenile Defense attorney’s around speaks regularly at public and private schools trying to educate and warn teachers, parents and most importantly students about these two poorly written, far right wing Laws, that are sending many of our young youth to jail and or labeling them as sex offenders etc. We need more people to write to their State Officials and demand these Laws be revisited and revised. JTom Morgan has a book out called ‘Ignorance is no excuse’ which addresses these very poorly written far right wing laws and that many of us are ignorant about these Laws(not informed or educated about about them) and our ignorance is causing many of our youth to be charged with serious crimes such as sex offender crimes(six year old GA boy charged with the Sex Offender crime because he asked a six year old girl if she wanted to see his ‘pee pee’; another 21 year old is charged as a ‘sex offender’ for urinating in the bushes in a parking lot of a bar at 2am; Child Pornography charges are being charged against youth who do “sexting” where they send or receive and then forward images of nudity etc and: Terroristic Threat charges if you threaten to beat someone up or instill fear in them,,The Terroristic Threat Law is a FELONY in Georgia, no matter if the person stating “I will beat you up” is a 7th or 8th grader or a person who is 50 years old, it is a Felony. Many more of us need to write to our State Officials, demand they revisit these Laws,,,maybe if they hear from many of us they will do something about it, so far I have not received any more responses back to my request expect for Congressman Westmoreland and the Atty General. I do know that State Senator Emanuel Jones is very active in trying to assist youth caught up in these situations. Our officials just need to go back to the drawing board on these three Laws and fix them.

  9. hopefulconservative says:

    The Governor’s office worked with the Attorney General and the Lt. Gov to rewrite the sex offender bill and passed it through the Senate. The House refused to pass anything.

  10. MSBassSinger says:

    The single most responsible person for Georgia’s laws is Jerry Keen. He is the one who primarily blocked the Senate’s sensible changes. The vapid yapping of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity on Jessica’s Law demagoging the subject also helped get our laws.

    Look at the GBI’s sex offender site (http://gbi.georgia.gov/00/channel_modifieddate/0,2096,67862954_87983024,00.html). There are two web sites – one for sexual predators , and one for sexual offenders. There are very few predators not in jail (89 statewide), but 13,951 non-predator sex offenders who are not in jail. If those 13,951 sex offenders are a real and present danger, then why are they not classified as predators? Why do we enact laws that punish their innocent spouses and children (think tens of thousands of people) to get at 89 predators?

    The State knows for each of these sex offenders whether they have any paraphilias or other indicators of re-offending. That is how they get classified as sexual predators. I talked to a probation officer a few years ago (in a Georgia county I will not name for fear of retribution to that officer) who explained that most of the people caught in the stings you hear about on TV in Georgia were never looking for children. They were swingers, roleplayers, or other deviants that career-minded investigators, managed by career-minded ADAs that the investigators sought out (often pretending to be adults) and repeatedly enticed by the investigators. Anyone who remembers the day care sex crimes of the 70s and 80s should also remember that most of those “offenders” were later found to be innocent after the kids grew up and told the truth about how they were coerced and coached by investigators, therapists, and ADAs into testifying falsely. With the Internet, now we have virtual kids who will never grow up and tell the truth.

    Don’t get me wrong – any adult who shows up clearly looking for sex with a young child deserves the full force of the law. There is no excuse for an adult having sex with a young child. Period. If they are mentally ill, they need to be locked up to protect society. But those who did their time for their crime (and especially their innocent spouses and children), short of those being unable or unwilling to control themselves, need to be left alone when they have paid their debt to society. In fact, the recidivism rate for non-predator sex offenders is lower than for any other felony crime.

    As someone who is a Christian and a conservative, I can tell you there is nothing Christian or conservative about GA’s sex offender laws. And sadly, they do nothing to protect children, and quite a lot to harm innocent women and children.

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