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So much for "close enough only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and thermonuclear warfare..."

Age is a very fluid thing. On one's birthday, one is legally a year older, but on that day one only ages a single day, not a whole year. Last October, I was 37 for most of the month, then 38. That day is little more than an arbitrary distinction, a line drawn strictly for convenience.

But lines have to be drawn somewhere. In a society where we often have to measure maturity and ability, calendar age is pretty much as good a universal yardstick as any. You may drive at 16, but not one day before your birthday. The same holds for voting, drinking, and running for national office.

Age of consent laws for sex are likewise black and white. If the age is 16 in your state, then it doesn't matter if your partner is one day or one decade short of turning 16, nor should it matter how wiling that partner is. One day they are a child and "jailbait," the next they are legal. It's arbitrary and, in many ways, silly and meaningless, but the law has to draw a line somewhere and apply it equally. There are no exceptions.

Well, at least not outside Massachusetts, where a 26-year-old schoolteacher can boink a 15-year-old boy, and get off (pardon the expression) with no jail time when the judge decides that a month and a half is "close enough" to the age of consent.

The judge may have been influenced by the details of the case -- initially, the teen said Mr. Pathiakis had raped him in a parking lot. Further investigation showed that the actual encounter took place in Mr. Pathiakis' apartment, and no force or coercion had been involved.

The prosecutor didn't care much. He had asked that Pathiakis get 4 to 8 years, and was disappointed when he was given 2 1/2 years -- suspended -- and five years probation.

Between this case and the Vermont case where a man who repeatedly raped a girl -- now 11 -- over four years and was given 60 days in jail, I'm starting to wonder if this is the beginning of a trend. And I hope not.

Because sooner or later some outraged parent will decide to take justice into their own hands -- and the state will have put that offender back on the streets, within that parent's easy reach.


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Comments (13)

He was convicted, but his s... (Below threshold)

He was convicted, but his sentence was suspended. This is not the same as being found not guilty. He's now a convicted sex offender and pedophile. He will certainly never work as a teacher again. He just isn't getting jail time.

Now I'm not agreeing with this ruling, but you yourself point to the fact that age of consent is arbitrary. In this case the judge legally ruled that it's arbitary and the kid new what he was getting into.

Part of me wonders if this ruling would have been similar if the victim had been a young girl instead of a young boy.

To allay Jay's worst fear... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

To allay Jay's worst fears ,the trend seems to be going the otherway, at least if one considers the worldtrend , and (in normally more permissive countries than the USA) towards zero tolerance, and strict background checks of teachers..The ministerial banning of sex offenders from working in schools in Britain, is the lead story today on the BBC

Well it was a few minutes a... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Well it was a few minutes ago (until the Bin Laden tape surfaced). Here is the original story on the Sex Offenders Banning

This case kind of follows r... (Below threshold)
brainy435:

This case kind of follows recent murder cases where minors are charged as adults because of the mindset of the individual. If a 14 yr old can be found to be capable of murder, why not of having sex...not that I agree with either decision.

Because sooner or later ... (Below threshold)
dodgeman:

Because sooner or later some outraged parent will decide to take justice into their own hands -- and the state will have put that offender back on the streets, within that parent's easy reach.

First, isn't it the other way around? The state refuses to enforce justice and then the parent takes matters into their own hands?

And second, you say that like it's a bad thing. I'm not for vigilante justice per se, but in cases of child abuse I'm willing to look the other way.

And second, you say that... (Below threshold)
JohnAnnArbor:

And second, you say that like it's a bad thing. I'm not for vigilante justice per se, but in cases of child abuse I'm willing to look the other way.

I bet most juries would, too, if they have all the information.

The VT case particularly ba... (Below threshold)
kevino:

The VT case particularly bad IMHO.

However, the citizens have the ability to impeach the judge. If they don't make that demand, or if their elected officials refuse and get away with it, then I don't feel sorry for the citizens. They have the government that they deserve.

Well I wonder if its just c... (Below threshold)
Gary:

Well I wonder if its just coincidence that both cases happened in the culturally progressive NorthEast?

As a dad father paternal in... (Below threshold)
DaddyFrank:

As a dad father paternal influence, which ever applies, I can honestly say something that may make people angry. I can watch my child get out of the shower naked ( modesty doesn't run in the females of my family) and see her 9 year old body and I can for a flash of a second think. Wow.. I can imagine what the hunger or impulse would be based on. I have no problem NOT acting on the impulse, but I can feel the potential. I won't deny that it could happen if I choose not to resist it. What scared me at first was not that I would act on it.. but that I might be perceived as acting on it.

In any day, we all might have thoughts that are less then pure, Less then noble. or even outright evil by 21 century norms.

What I say this for is not to excuse the actions or rationalize them. It is to say that we must not fear the thoughts. We can accept that they will happen.. and then CHOOSE not to act on them.

Those who choose, are those who have to be punished or disciplined. Some would call this thought control, No. it is behavior control.

and so many of our species simply behave differently. Yet we all must conform to society and it's norms.

Don't fear the thought. Just don't act on it

I make no bones about it. ... (Below threshold)
Bob Jones:

I make no bones about it. If some predator rapes one of my kids and some stupid judge sets him free or gives him a light sentence, I would be waiting for the predator to walk the streets and take care of justice myself.

I'll take my chances with a jury of my peers later. If I would have to do time, it would be worth it to remove a predator from this life.

Jay Tea -I like to... (Below threshold)

Jay Tea -

I like to take the middle road and change years on my actuarial birthday. Gives a sense of immortality.

Maybe we can view the lucky couple's wedding on ABC as they stroll down Fanuiel Hall in front of a throng in thongs.

At the rate they are going ... (Below threshold)
Nahanni:

At the rate they are going Vermont and Massachusetts will become the destinations of choice for every sexual predator in the country. Including the thousand or so that are still "missing" from Louisiana due to the evacuations.

If I had children and lived in those states I would be looking to get my family out of them ASAP. If something happened to your child you can be damned sure the state will protect the sick bitch or bastard who did it, not your child.

Well, a big story here (in ... (Below threshold)
Lizzie:

Well, a big story here (in the UK) in the last ten days or so has been that our Schools Minister, Ruth Kelly, has been giving the go-ahead for known child sex offenders to work in schools. You think you've got it bad?!




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