Category Archive 'Legal Excesses'

21 Aug 2007

Charges Against Oregon Kids Dropped

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AP reports, at the victims’ request.

Two 13-year-old boys accused of slapping girls’ bottoms and poking or cupping girls’ breasts at school apologized on Monday as a judge dismissed charges against the two, ending a six-month case that drew national attention. …

Four girls listed as victims by the prosecutors had asked the judge to drop the charges against Cory Mashburn and Ryan Cornelison.

Yamhill County Judge John Collins did so on Monday, saying it was in the “interest of justice.”

A number of young girls were in the courtroom during the hearing. They included at least some of the four who asked that the charges be dropped, attorneys said.

During the brief hearing, the two boys faced the girls and apologized. …

The News-Register newspaper of McMinnville reported that a “civil compromise” reached by prosecutors and the defense called for both boys to apologize, to pay each of the four girls $250 and to complete a “boundaries education” program.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys said they could not comment on the newspaper report or release details of the settlement because they are confidential.

Pressure has been building on prosecutors to drop the charges, with critics saying they had blown the matter out of proportion and were overzealous.

The boys, apparently inspired by the movie “Jackass,” were accused in police reports of swatting girls on the bottom in a school corridor, grabbing girls’ breasts on at least two occasions, teaming up to “dry hump” girls, poking girls’ breasts and engaging in what’s known as “party boy” dancing mimicking sexual intercourse.

They were originally charged with felony and misdemeanor sex abuse charges in February. Amid growing public opposition to sending the boys to prison and putting them on a sex offenders’ registry, prosecutors dropped the felony sex abuse charges and added misdemeanor harassment charges, then later dropped all sex abuse charges, leaving only the harassment counts.

The judge dismissed the final charges following negotiations between prosecutors and the defense, and discussions with the four girls about whether they wanted the case dismissed.

Now let’s hope the people out there in Oregon go on to remove that county prosecutor from office and to fire the school officials and cops involved in embarrassing their state, county, and community. Somebody should start a “morons who should never be allowed to hold any office or position of responsibility” list.


Earlier posting
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29 Jul 2007

Criminalizing Childhood

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Contemporary American society is afflicted with an epidemic of metastatic growth in the self importance of petty officials at a time in which ordinary common sense has taken a vacation from American life.

One noteworthy result, especially common on America’s liberal coasts, has been the expansion of zero tolerance policies to include ordinary childhood behavior.

The Canadian Mark Steyn is deservedly appalled at a case in Oregon.

Do you know Cory Mashburn and Ryan Cornelison?

If you do, don’t approach them. Call 911 and order up a SWAT team. They’re believed to be in the vicinity of McMinnville, Ore., where they’re a clear and present danger to the community. Mashburn and Cornelison were recently charged with five counts of felony sexual abuse, and District Attorney Bradley Berry has pledged to have them registered for life as sex offenders.

Oh, by the way, the defendants are in the seventh grade.

Messrs Mashburn and Cornelison are pupils at Patton Middle School. They were arrested in February after being observed in the vestibule, swatting girls on the butt. Butt-swatting had apparently become a form of greeting at the school – like “a handshake we do,” as one female student put it. On “Slap Butt Fridays,” boys and girls would hail each other with a cheery application of manual friction to the posterior, akin to a Masonic greeting.

Don’t ask me why. …

So, upon being caught butt-swatting, Mashburn and Cornelison were called to the principal’s office, where they were questioned for several hours by vice principal Steve Tillery and McMinnville Police officer Marshall Roache. At the end of the afternoon, two boys who’d never been in any kind of trouble before were read their Miranda rights and led off in handcuffs to spend five days in juvenile jail.

Tough, but I guess they learned their lesson, right?

Ha! The state of Oregon was only warming up. After a court appearance in shackles and prison garb, the defendants were charged with multiple counts of felony sexual abuse, banned from school and forbidden any contact with their friends. …

Having had no previous prolonged exposure to the American justice system, I was interested to see whether the techniques used by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald were particular to that case or more widely applied. The Oregon butt psychos make an instructive study. … once the authorities had decided on their view of the case, other parties were leaned on to fall into line and play the role of “victims.” Of 14 other students interviewed by officer Roache, seven (boys and girls) told him they had engaged in bottom-swatting themselves. Two of the “victims” said they had done it to others. At the initial hearing, a couple of female students spontaneously testified that they’d felt very much pressured to conform during their interviews with the vice principal and the police officer. “Well, when the principal asked me stuff, I kind of felt pressured to answer stuff that I was uncomfortable, and that it hurt, but it really didn’t,” said one girl.

What does hurt? Attracting the attention of the district attorney. The prosecutor’s office reduced the counts from felony sexual assault (with which he’d successfully charged a couple of other middle-school students a year ago) to five misdemeanor counts of sexual abuse and five counts of sexual harassment.

With the boys’ respective parents already in the hole for $10,000 apiece in legal fees, the D.A. used the most powerful weapon in the prosecutor’s armory: Cop a plea, and we’ll make all the pain go away. In this instance, that would mean pleading guilty in return for probation. The terms of probation would prevent Mashburn and Cornelison from contact with younger children, which would mean they couldn’t be left with their younger siblings.

Mashburn and Cornelison do not believe they’ve committed a crime, so they would like to exercise their right to the presumption of innocence – a bedrock principle of the English legal tradition now in great peril from American prosecutorial excess. Instead of letting the state bully them into a grubby, shaming deal, the boys would like it to do what justice systems in civilized societies are required to do: prove the crime. It’s a gamble: Those 10 charges each command a one-year sentence, plus lifelong sex-offender registration.

District Attorney Berry told reporter Susan Goldsmith of the Oregonian that his department “aggressively” pursues sex crimes. “These cases are devastating to children,” he said. “They are life-altering cases.”

No, sir. The only one devastating children’s lives is you. If you “win,” and these “criminals” are convicted, 20, 30 years from now – applying for a job, volunteering for a community program, heading north for a weekend in Vancouver and watching the Customs guard swipe the driver’s license through the computer – there’ll be a blip, something will come up on the screen, and for the umpteenth time two middle-age men will realize they bear a mark that can never be expunged. Because decades ago they patted their pals on the rear in a middle-school corridor.

A world that requires handcuffs and judges and district attorneys for what took place that Friday in February is not just a failed education system but an entire society that’s losing any sense of proportion. Without which, civilized life becomes impossible. So we legalize more and more aspects of life and demand that district attorneys prosecute ever more aggressively what were once routine areas of social interaction.

A society that looses the state to criminalize schoolroom horseplay is guilty not only of punishing children as grown-ups but of the infantilization of the entire citizenry.


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