Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Shooting hoops, molesting children = same thing, really

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I’ve often written about the abuse and injustices perpetrated towards sex offenders, particularly when so many of them never deserved such a title to begin with. Here’s another story: that of Matthew Freeman, who was convicted of having sex with his then-15-year-old girlfriend when he was 17. Now 23, Freeman is still finding it quite hard to live a normal life – particularly when his nosy neighbors can file criminal charges on him simply for playing hoops on his own lawn when less than 1,000 from the nearest school playground.

According to a police report, a state trooper pulled up to Freeman's house across the street from Ann Arbor's Carpenter Elementary School, where children were on the playground at 7:30 p.m.

Freeman told the trooper Pittsfield Township police told him “it shouldn’t be a problem” to live near the school. He had registered with Pittsfield police 27 days earlier using his family's Dalton Avenue address.

Freeman told the trooper he was on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry because he had “sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend when he was 17.” He also said his girlfriend’s mother got “upset with him and pressed charges.”

The trooper aimed a laser gun at the school building and determined Freeman was living 326 feet away, the report said, breaking the law.

Freeman, 23, is charged with a school safety zone residency violation, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. He was arraigned Dec. 4 and is scheduled to return to court Friday.

“I’m outside sweating hard, playing basketball, working on my drills,” he said. “I ain’t looking at no kids. I can’t even go outside and play basketball on my own hoop?”

Washtenaw County Chief Deputy Assistant Prosecutor Steve Hiller said he couldn't comment on Freeman’s case because it's pending. But prosecutors take into account the facts and circumstances surrounding each case, Hiller said.

“We view these as public safety issues,” Hiller said. “That’s the paramount concern we have when dealing with sex offender registry cases. This particular law is in place to protect children, so that’s obviously a very serious matter.”

It certainly is a “very serious matter”, indeed. You wouldn’t want Freeman to molest a child with a basketball, would you? Hell, imagine if then he started playing football in the streets – now that has some potential for some real damage, doesn’t it? That’s for the SWAT to take care of. And when he starts up hockey, then better just call the Army.

Here’s the story: Freeman met his ex-girlfriend (you know, the one he molested had sex with) when he was 16 and she, 14. They fell in love and dated for five months before they both consented to entering the sexual relationship phase. Unfortunately, the girl’s mother, Evelyn Scott, felt that they were too young and told them to break it off. But they didn’t. This pissed Scott off, and when the fateful day came when 17-year-old Freeman had sex with his girlfriend who was just one year below the age of consent, Scott decided to deal with the situation the only way she, “as a single, working mother”, knew how: by pressing charges against the kid. Naturally, he was instantly branded as a sex offender and his name added to the registry for anyone to look up and feel horrified at (as the registry lists only the charges and convictions of sex offenders, not the details).

One thing to debate here is how Scott should have reacted to the two underage kids (at least at first) having sex. Yes, it’s arguable that having sex at 13 and 15 years old isn’t exactly the wisest thing, but quite frankly, how many kids that age, especially if they’re in love, are gonna refuse the chance to get their rocks off whenever it presents itself? You have to be realistic. If Scott truly thought it was for the best to prevent the two from having sex, at least until they were old enough (by her standards, anyway), I’m pretty sure she could have kept looking for a little longer rather than condemn Freeman to a life of hell as a sex offender.

One thing about this case that I find to be both particularly interesting and angering is how he was convicted of “fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct with force or coercion”, as though he’d forced his then-girlfriend into having sex with him. Even the girl’s mother, the one responsible for throwing Freeman into this mess to begin with, admits that her daughter “was a willing participant” and was “not forced to commit any act”. Labeling the kid as a sex offender who had sex with an underage girl (without mentioning that he himself was only two years older and that they were both in love and consenting) wasn’t bad enough; they had to go ahead and charge him with doing it through “force or coercion”. Bull-fucking-shit.

At least Scott the mother is trying to redeem herself, hopefully out of guilt for what she did to the guy:

Scott, his ex-girlfriend’s mother, has written a letter on Freeman’s behalf asking that he be removed from the registry.

“He’s a young man,” she said. “He made his mistake. He paid for it. This should be squashed. This should be expunged from his record. He’s not given a chance to live and become an upstanding citizen.”

Even the woman who first led to him being labeled as a sex offender is on his side now and is fighting for his name to be cleared. What more could anyone want for a reason as to why Freeman should be allowed to get his life back?

As if we needed any further argument to illustrate how and why all this is blatantly unjust, just check out the reaction that prompted this new load of misery for Freeman to begin with:

The state trooper visited Freeman’s home that August night after being forwarded an anonymous tip, submitted through the Michigan State Police Public Sex Offender Registry Web site.

The tipster was a mother who lived in the neighborhood. She wrote that a sex offender of a “child under the age of 13” was living in front of the school.

“I can’t let my children play at this school anymore because he is always outside playing basketball, watching the kids that are playing,” she wrote. “How creepy, how disgusting…please help us get rid of him.”

Freeman said the accusation he sexually assaulted a child under age 13, “just kills me.”

The only thing worse than a self-righteous asshole, is an ignorant self-righteous asshole. This Very Concerned MotherTM can’t even be bothered to actually verify the charges against Freeman – no-where does it state anything remotely like “sexual assault on a child under 13” – and she still would like to see him disappear. What a fucking idiot.

People like that woman are the reason for all the harshness and unfairness sex offenders are forced to live with for such a large part of their lives, if not all of them.

(via The Agitator)