LEE’S SUMMIT, JUNE 24, 2012 – Once upon a time “common sense” was praised as a unique and wonderful thing. Common sense is the intersection of rules and reason. It is that unique quality of doing the right thing for the right reason with facts and experience blended in. Once upon a time…
Last week I was driving to work listening to the radio and I was caught by the news: Police have arrested a high school cheerleading assistant coach and substitute teacher who allegedly had a sexual relationship with a 17-year old varsity basketball and football player.
According to the reports, back in February Megan Crafton, the assistant cheerleading coach and a substitute teacher at Shelbyville High School in Indiana had a consensual relationship with a young man, above the legal age of consent in Indiana. Somehow the Shelbyville Indiana Police department found out about it – use your imagination as to how someone may have found out – and they started an investigation (why does the Simon and Garfunkel song come to mind).
The event took place in February of 2012. Miss Crafton was interviewed by the police, admitted to the encounter and the activity and for a while nothing happened. Then on June 15, 2012 she was arrested and charged with a Class D Felony “Child Seduction” in violation of statute: 35-42-4-7(k)(1)(2)(A)(i).
If convicted Miss Crafton will be listed as a sex offender, she will have to register for at least 15 years if not for the rest of her life (it will depend on whether Indiana has adopted the Adam Walsh law, or if it is still functioning under Megan’s law) and will have to remain at least 1,000 feet from any school or day care, she will have to avoid contact with any person or persons under the age of 18, she will have to register with the county Sheriff and if she travels for more than three days to any other county or state she will have to register with that county Sheriff as well as if she is in any jurisdiction for more than 7 total days in a calendar year, she must report where she works and be listed in the sex offender registry.
Let’s review for a moment:
- A 22-year old woman,
- A 17-year old man (above the age of consent),
- Consensual adult encounter.
How is this a crime? Does the punishment – in this case – truly fit the crime?
Well, in the words of Lt. Michael Turner, Shelbyville Indiana Police Department, “We wouldn’t be having this conversation if it was her and some other gentleman who doesn’t go to the school or isn’t part of the school system, but unfortunately in this case, it was and it made it illegal.”
According to Indiana Legal Code, IC 35-42-4-7 Child Seduction, the rule is clear.
She was employed by a school corporation, was at least 18 years of age, was more than 4 years older than her under age partner, and he was at least 16 years of age, and less than 18 years of age, and they engaged in sexual intercourse. Thus, the facts support what Lt. Turner claimed.
This is where I think the “common sense” has fallen out of favor. This woman and this young man had a consensual moment together. Is she a teacher? Yes, sort of. She is not one of his teachers. She’s a substitute teacher in the school. Their age difference is a bit over 4 years; but in reality in her mind she may simply still be more a student than a teacher reacting as a young woman to any young man’s exploratory banter.
I have a problem with the one-size-fits-all concept of justice, but in my opinion the legal system (the rules side of the equation) must have the one-size-fits-all mentality. It has no choice but to create rules (laws) that apply to the general public; but once you step into the court we transition from laws to justice, from rules to reason.
Justice is defined as:
- The quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause.
- Rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason: to complain with justice.
- The moral principle determining just conduct.
- Conformity to this principle, as manifested in conduct; just conduct, dealing, or treatment.
- The administering of deserved punishment or reward.
This is where common sense should prevail, and our legal system – unfortunately – does not allow for common sense to prevail when it comes to sexual conduct. We are ensconced in the dichotomy between sexual freedom that took hold starting the 1960’s and Victorian age puritanism.
The United States legal system started with a great objective: Stop sexual predators, and allow the public to know who they are so they can protect themselves and their children. How can anyone – including me – argue with that? I’m the father of two daughters and two sons, the stepfather to four other children, the grandfather of eight children.
I want to protect them!
I want them safe to grow up and become healthy productive members of society, with the right to pursue happiness!
Yet, I’m conflicted because I don’t see how Miss Crafton would ever be a threat to them. I would want to know a great deal more about this case. I would want to know who initiated the affair. I would want to know if it was truly consensual. I would want to know if there was any malice in either of the two participant’s hearts.
The prosecutors, by design, have an adversarial role to play. They must argue the legal facts of the case. If they chose to use common sense, they too have to worry about “what will people think?”
Or perhaps I have this all wrong, and it is because of how prosecutors are measured in their job. There is an old axiom in business that I learned early on: Tell me how you’ll measure me, and I’ll tell you what I will do to look good. If I’m measured by my conviction rate, then cases are going to be evaluated and moved forward on the basis of “how likely am I to get a conviction?” In the case of Miss Crafton with what is tantamount to a confession, this is likely and open and shut case: An almost certain conviction. If that’s how I’m measured, I’m going to sink my teeth into this one and get my victory; because, who knows what other case I may be forced to try and end up with a loss.
I look at Sexual Offenders as intended: people who force sexual activity upon others without consent. I fear the violent nature of those people who will force themselves physically upon others (by manipulation, will, coercion, authority or actual physical force). I think those people should pay the full price and receive their truly “just” punishment.
This is a perplexing situation in view of the other high notoriety case of Jerry Sandusky, the Penn State assistant football coach convicted of molesting young boys. But there are other cases that are less clear cut.
Representative Robert Scott (D-WVa) prophetically stated on July 25, 2006 on the eve of the passage of the Adam Walsh Act of 2006:
“Under the provisions of the bill, prom night in the Washington D.C., Virginia, and Maryland area could have nightmarish consequences. And to show how ridiculous it could be, if two teenagers, one 18 and one 17, engage in sexual activity without crossing a State line, you will have, if there is any prosecution at all, it will be a misdemeanor on the part of the 18-year-old. So we have the absurd anomaly of making what is now an infrequently prosecuted misdemeanor into a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for teens who cross State lines to do it. Imposing a 10-year mandatory prison term on teenagers engaged in consensual sex is not responsible legislating.”
The only way to handle all of these diverse cases is to allow the human side, the common sense, to apply where applicable. Things, sadly, are never clearly black and white. It is all the shades of grey that fall in between that makes cases like Miss Crafton’s so difficult – and there are thousands of others with similar borderline issues.
I don’t know if what Miss Crafton did was malicious or if it caused harm. From all I read it seems like a lack of good judgment and unprofessional behavior. Perhaps her just punishment would be to lose her license to teach for a few years, remedial therapy, and a required reapplication. To me this appears to be more a lack of professionalism than a criminal act.
I hope for her sake, his sake, and the sake of the community of Shelbyville that common sense prevails in this case. Yet, I fear that she will be convicted simply by the letter of the law and the true potential of her life will be severely damaged because of an unprofessional act that is caught by the all-encompassing sex offender laws we are so eager to impose.
The Lee’s Summit Conservative