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March 4, 2010

Chelsea King tragedy heats up politics around sex offender monitoring

This new ABC News piece, which is headlined "Chelsea King Case: Outrage Over Sex Offender Monitoring Reaches White House: John Walsh Said President Obama Vowed to Fund Federal Sex Offender Law," highlights that the latest crime tragedy is turning up the political heat concerning sex offender monitoring. Here are excepts:

John Walsh, host of "America's Most Wanted," said he met with President Obama Wednesday to discuss child protection laws and funding for the Adam Walsh Act, signed three years ago by President Bush. The law promised to create a national registry of sex offenders and keep closer track of the most violent of them, but it did not come with the funds needed to carry it out.

"President Obama said yesterday, 'As the father of two girls, John, I will get the Adam Walsh law funded,'" Walsh told "Good Morning America" today....

King, a well-liked honors student, vanished after heading out for a jog in a semi-rural San Diego County park. Her body was found less than a week later, buried in a shallow grave near the shore of Lake Hodges, about a half-mile from her car.

But the outrage grew with the arrest of Gardner, a known violent sex offender who has since been charged with the December assault and attempted rape of 22-year-old Candice Moncayo in the same park where King's body was found.

"I think everyone asks the same question," Walsh said. "Why was this animal out on the streets?"...

"The law should be once you offend, you're done, you're toast, you're in the slammer or you are executed," one angry woman said as she stood among protestors outside the courthouse.

Former San Diego County District Attorney Paul Pfingst was slightly more objective. "I am of the view that people who do harm to teenage girls should go to Gitmo and stay there for the rest of their lives and be waterboarded," he said.

Related post on Chelsea King case:

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This is not surprising. Murder is an awful thing, and people tend to get upset when it was preventable. And here it was.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 4, 2010 11:26:27 AM

What did the murder have to do with the Adam Walsh Act? Nothing. This is the problem with the politics of crime. Too many no-nothings get quoted.

Moreover, if we actually had a life sentence for everyone convicted of a sex crime (which are absurdly broad), we'd be spending all of our resources of these cases, since everyone would go to trial. Some people who otherwise would pled guilty would be acquitted and lots of cases would be dropped (especially those involving kids) because the victim would not want to testify at a trial. So, in the long run, it would make our streets less safe.

Finally, with respect to this case, there has been no trial. No evidence has even been produced. Yet many are already ready to kill this guy. Shouldn't we at least have more information than "the police think there's probable cause to believe he did it" before we form the opinion that he should be executed?

Posted by: Bail | Mar 4, 2010 11:51:45 AM


What a load of unmitigated crap. You know, your comment was preventable too...if your mom had an abortion. Too bad she didn't.

Hindsight is always 20-20. It's amazing to me how quick people are to condemn hate it others but laud it in themselves.

Posted by: Daniel | Mar 4, 2010 11:57:34 AM

ah daniel, such class. The nastiness of your comment suggests I struck a nerve.

The bottom line is that people who prey on stranger kids are VERY dangerous, and incarcerating them for long stretches prevents victimization.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 4, 2010 12:09:56 PM

I guess federalist's claim that this crime was preventable prompts the question of what the appropriate sentence for a first-offense child molestation should be. In this case, the max was 11 years, and if the guy had gotten it, he still would have been out in time to commit this offense.

Posted by: arx | Mar 4, 2010 12:16:17 PM

A stranger who molests a kid is very very dangerous. He should have been prosecuted very harshly.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 4, 2010 12:26:34 PM

"A stranger who molests a kid is very very dangerous. He should have been prosecuted very harshly."

Answer the question. Assuming there wasn't a statutory max, how much time should he have gotten in the original case?

Posted by: John | Mar 4, 2010 2:05:25 PM

I agree, federalist--he should have gotten at least 11 years, and I'd say even 15 could be justified.

But then, couldn't he simply do the exact same act once he was released? Maybe not to the same girl, but certainly some other one, right?

Unless you're willing to impose a life sentence without parole for every person convicted of a sex offense, something like this will invariably happen.

Is that your advocacy? If so, out with it.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Mar 4, 2010 2:09:31 PM

federalist. You did hit a nerve. I don't approve of what this man did (assuming they have the right guy) but I don't approve of all the hysteria surrounding it either. Seriously, why have any debate at all. As supremacy claus advocates for, just kill everyone. If everyone is dead, there will be no crime. But somehow I think that even if everyone on the planet were dead but federalist, your blood-lust would still not be satisfied.

Posted by: Daniel | Mar 4, 2010 2:53:33 PM

yes, he may have done something after 11 or 15 years--he also may have settled down--in any event, it's unfortunate we cannot have a mandatory death penalty for killers with his kind of criminal history

Posted by: federalist | Mar 4, 2010 4:10:08 PM

Bail --

"This is the problem with the politics of crime. Too many no-nothings get quoted."

The problem here is not politics and it is not quotations. It is that a man known to be dangerous to teenage girls was not given a sentence sufficient to either to persuade or force him to stop. Therefore he did not stop, and a promising young life was violently ended.

It is simply unarguable that, as federalist says, this was preventable. That our system was too lax to do so is worse than unfortunate.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 4, 2010 4:16:27 PM

The answer is that if beating a 13 year old child whom you've lured into your house, then attempting to rape her, not excepting responsibility, AND having a shrink declare you are an exceptional future danger (read the facts of his original offense) -- if that can only get you a maximum of 11 years in California then the law in California is, to put it mildly, far too lax. That conduct, his lack of remorse, and his future dangerousness should mean 25 years (calender) if it means a day - and mandatory civil commitment afterwards unless he can affirmatively prove he is not a continuing threat. Period. How many McDuffs does it take for you crybaby criminality apologists to get the message about these psychopathic pieces of filth?

Child molesters are a far, far different beast from the average American prisoner who is likely in jail for a petty drug, gun, or theft offense (or immigration, if he's locked up federally). Lumping murderers and molesters together with more prosaic offenders, and constantly bleating about poor death row inmates (cry me a river), just cheapens any real argument about reform for the 75% of defendants that are no future threat.

When you try to make excuses for this case, or the pathetic response of the State of California ten years ago, you look like the fools you are.

Posted by: Ferris Bueller | Mar 4, 2010 4:46:21 PM

federalist, since it appears you're conceding that the length of the sentence may have nothing to do with future criminality, I guess we agree on that point. Until you adopt LWOP for all felonies, there is always a nonzero chance that a felon will reoffend.

And I can guarantee you that King will get the death penalty in this case. Whether every murderer with a previous conviction for child molestation should get the death penalty is another question, I suppose.

And Bill, I still have yet to hear from either you or federalist what sentence, exactly, King should have gotten in his prior case that would have been sufficient, in your view. If it's not LWOP, how do you know the sentence would have kept him from reoffending?

Posted by: arx | Mar 4, 2010 4:50:45 PM

Arx, Criminology 101: Crime is a young man's game. The chances of Gardner re-offending, and more appropriately for an offender like him, future dangerousness go down as he becomes old and infirm. Perhaps 25 (calendar) years (he'd have been in his 50's in 2025), perhaps longer. Hence the need for mandatory civil commitments for these type of offenders (or determinate life sentences).

The answer to "how long" is always "as long as it takes". And always erring on the side of LONGER.

Posted by: Ferris Bueller | Mar 4, 2010 5:04:05 PM

Ferris, I think your answer proves the point, that "as long as it takes" is a difficult sentence to impose.

25 years for a first offense child molest sounds good, and if you put it to a vote, it would win in a landslide, but I don't think California has enough total budget to build all the prisons we'd need. Same for mandatory civil lifelong commitments for all first offenders.

Posted by: arx | Mar 4, 2010 5:10:50 PM

Hold on a minute.. does anyone know the facts about sex offenders? well let me be the one to fill in a few.. first over 80 percent KNOW the victum, second this group is the LEAST likely to re-offend, murder and robbery are the highest on the list.Thirdly it takes no physcial evidence to convict a sex offender. a woman or young girl is able to point the finger and destroy a man/womans life...Forever... Think about it for a small moment, unable to get a job or have a place to live.. One in every 4 neighborhoods are near a school..less than the required 500 feet. a national system..give me a break..let's list with pictures and all personal info..the politicans who have committed a crime !! the rock stars and movie stars, the police and the car jackers, and or shop lifeted.the people who had affaris ...etc the list goes on and on. we have taken rights from everyone over their past....they paid their debt to society... some want to live good productive lives and follow the law..the victum moves on in most cases but this group of people can't..they are stuck in the past and it is braught up all the time !

Posted by: No so Fast- a stdent | Mar 4, 2010 5:14:27 PM

arx: You're wrong. There is pleeenty of bed space for the Gardners of the world provided we get smart about drug crime and other petty offenses. Priorities.

Posted by: Ferris Bueller | Mar 4, 2010 5:27:16 PM

Not So Fast: First, Where do you get your facts on recidivism? I'd like to see that - nearly any study I've ever seen suggests the OPPOSITE regarding re-offense for sex offenders. Second, we're not talking about any sex offense - we're talking about a paticular type of offender who choses victims he doesn't know well or is related to, so nice try, but no cigar. Third, I'm sorry you are on the national database, tough break. ;)

Posted by: Ferris Bueller | Mar 4, 2010 5:31:18 PM

well i am NOT a sex offender at all ! the re offenders who select their targets at random are few ! we do have a knee jerk reaction to all things that scare us! we have so many FEAR based laws..
I WAS a VICTUM of this crime in case you were wondering .... I moved on and know have a wonderful .... thanks though for the cigar ! :>)

Posted by: No so Fast- a stdent | Mar 4, 2010 5:39:01 PM

Ferris -

I'd love to see you fight that one out with the California Narcotic Officers' Association.

Point being, there will always be a well-organized constituency against reducing criminal penalties for anything, but increasing penalties is pretty much a walk in the park.

Posted by: arx | Mar 4, 2010 5:46:41 PM

Ferris, word is, Gardner smoked pot. That puts us back to "Reefer Madness."

Will someone please explain how the Walsh Act would have prevented this in comparison to what California already has?

Posted by: George | Mar 4, 2010 7:25:46 PM

hey farris you want to toss those studies you have from the early 1990's and join the rest of us in the 21st century.

2nd visit the DOJ website.

then vist the justice department websites of the world.

heck england just fnished a 2 YEAR study of OUR sex crime laws and registration system and the final opinion was

THEY'RE NUTS! and we want no part of it.

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Mar 4, 2010 7:32:00 PM

Bill, you’ve taken my quote out of context and then responded to a point I did not make. My comment that too many “[kn]ow nothings get quoted” had been preceded with the comment that this crime had nothing to do with the Adam Walsh Act and would not have been prevented even if the Adam Walsh Act were fully implemented and funded. But you would not know that fact about the Adam Walsh Act from reading the article. Rather, the article quoted a “[kn]ow nothing” who implied the connection, thereby misleading readers.

And, I see, like everyone else, you’re simply assuming this guy did it. But it appears we know far too little about any of this to draw any conclusions. Even if this guy did it, it’s not clear that the law was the problem. The prosecutor might have been concerned about a jury acquitting in the prior offense because of lack of evidence. Or perhaps the victim did not want to testify. Or maybe there were other issues. Perhaps given the circumstances, the sentence the defendant received was the best society could have hoped for. It’s hard to say, at this point, because we don’t know the full record.

But, then again, when it comes to crime and politics, rarely do facts matter. Rather, what matters it there was a tragedy involving a crime. The predictable response is hysteria.

To cut off your inevitable strawman, no, I am not saying we should do nothing about people who commit horrible sex crimes. (I’ve read this blog long enough to know you like to paint anyone who disagrees with you as some crazy loon who loves criminals.) Surely, we should do what we can to prevent crime, especially crimes like this. But no matter what system we choose, it will have costs. And errors will be made. Given that even the best system will have mistakes, it’s rare we can learn much about crime policy from looking at one event.

Posted by: Bail | Mar 4, 2010 8:40:31 PM

As far as I know, Adam Walsh's body was never found... why is John Walsh so hell bent on sex offenders? Is there any proof his son was sexually abused at some point in his short life?

Posted by: Huh | Mar 4, 2010 8:57:56 PM

"why is John Walsh so hell bent on sex offenders?"


Posted by: Daniel | Mar 4, 2010 9:05:11 PM

Bail --

"But no matter what system we choose, it will have costs. And errors will be made."

Thank you. It is past time that the prison-costs-too-much crowd admit that their solution -- shorter sentences -- will ALSO have costs.

"Given that even the best system will have mistakes, it’s rare we can learn much about crime policy from looking at one event."

That's not what I hear from many abolitionists, who claim that even one instance of executing an innocent person should be enough to put an end to the death penalty.

This murder does not by itself dictate policy, sure. But it is horrifying proof that insufficiently long sentences can and do take a toll in human suffering and sometimes death. This fact should introduce modesty and circumspection into the release-them-now crowd, but instead it seems to have introduced only blistering indignation that someone should point out that the cost savings they would achieve THEMSELVES have costs.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 4, 2010 10:00:29 PM

Bail --

One more point.

"I’ve read this blog long enough to know you like to paint anyone who disagrees with you as some crazy loon who loves criminals."

Then you will have an easy time quoting any post of mine in which I state that any, or even one, disagreeing commenter is "a crazy loon who loves criminals."

Let's see it.

While you're doing your search function, look for the number of times Kent, federalist, and I have been called barbarians, bloodlusters, savages, etc., for supporting the policy two-thirds of the public and the Supreme Court supports, to wit, the death penalty. Oddly I don't recall your taking exception to those epithets, even once. Could you please quote the post where you did so?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 4, 2010 10:10:23 PM

I don't think there's really any effective way to "prevent" crime. This guy served time in jail for a prior crime then got out and did something even worse than before. Even if he had been locked up for life, there will probably always be someone new out there getting into trouble. Punishing crimes after they happen doesn't seem to make many people think about what they have done and care what they are capable of in the future.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 5, 2010 2:40:06 AM

Daniel: Perhaps, a quibble. 123D applies to repeat violent offenses, not to "everyone." By the current forbearance of crime by the lawyer, there are 17,000 extra-judicial executions a year. With the foreseeability of planetary orbits, the burden carried by black folks will be 6 times that of whites.

Your coddling attitude is a strong factor in those 17,000 executions, especially of black folks. There is no way for the criminal lover, making his government sinecure fees off the defendant, but nothing off the victim, there is no way to evade responsibility for that mass slaughter.

I have suggested a tort approach, reversing many SC decisions. Enact statutes establishing a duty to individual citizens of the police and other crime management officials, especially judges. All such criminal lovers must be made to carry personal liability insurance. There would be a professional standards approach rather than a strict liability or ordinary negligence approach. There could be a bad outcome without liability if the official acted within mainstream standards for his position.

This law would align the incentives of the lawyer with those of the public, the owner of the law. Job One and Job Last of the law is personal security. Left wing academics object to this expansion of litigation, making this site charming, amusing and ironic.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 5, 2010 9:02:22 AM

Joe: The sole mature goal of the criminal law does prevent crime, incapacitation. The four other goals are left wing, government, make work, self-dealing bs.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 5, 2010 9:06:26 AM

It's true, Ferris--according to the DOJ, sex offenders have a recidivism rate of approximately 4%, which is the second lowest rate among all criminal categories (homicide is the lowest with approximately 2%). Crimes like burglary and arson were over 50%. This was based on reports from 36 states (?--may be higher) and the federal government.

The stats surprised me as well when I read them a couple years ago, since I, too, initially assumed that sex offenders were much more prone to recidivism. But so did the stats showing that concealed carry did not increase crime, and in fact often decreased it--hence why I changed my position on the issue.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Mar 5, 2010 9:08:00 AM

"sex offenders" picks up a lot of people. There are certain types of "sex offenses" that are red flags--messing with a stranger child is one of them. People who do that are dangerous and need to be locked up. Do I think the uncle that as a first offense messes with his niece deserves LWOP--no I don't. Do I think that a guy who attacks little girl not related to him deserves more than six years, yes I do. And I certainly think that child molesters who kill after being released from prison ought to have a mandatory death sentence.

Burglars, by the way, are also dangerous. They can graduate to more serious crimes fairly quickly. Home invaders, i.e., burglars who break into houses that are then occupied, are a serious danger. Breaking into an occupied home while armed ought to be at least a 30 year sentence.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 5, 2010 1:26:37 PM

i couldn't have said it better myself federalist! i'm with you on this one.

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Mar 5, 2010 1:47:55 PM

ferris: "There is pleeenty of bed space for the Gardners of the world provided we get smart about drug crime and other petty offenses. Priorities."

me: there is probably a court room somewhere in america today where someone is getting a long sentence for something compartively silly like selling a couple of rocks of crack or stealing a bag of candy right before or right after an icky perv gets a veritable slap on the wrist for child molestation. one of the main factors of blame, which appears to be a factor in this case, is the heavy emphasis placed on prior criminal records in sentencing guidelines and practices. in a lot of the icky perv cases, there isn't much of a serious prior record - as a result, a lot of icky pervs are probably underpunished because the guidelines place too much weight on prior record and not enough weight on the circumstances of the crime charged. there is no reason why selling a couple of rocks of crack or stealing a bag of candy or for that matter viewing photos of a child being molested should ever be punished more than molesting a child - yet, that very thing occurs frequently in some jurisdictions including mine.

really, there are some crimes which are vastly overpunished and others which are underpunished. child molestation tends to be in the underpunished category - while child rape is now rightfully punished as one of the most serious crimes, crimes less than rape and sex crimes involving adult victims are generally underpunished. but I guess its more important to lock up low level drug dealers than rapists (with adult victims) and child molesters. at least that is what many state legislatures and congress seem to think.

Posted by: virginia | Mar 5, 2010 3:38:52 PM

@ Res ipsa

With nearly 800,000 registered offenders in the U.S., that would indicate that about 32,000 may re-offend. I think that is less than 1% of the U.S. population... isn't it?

Hysteria, "justified concern" or Witch Hunt?

Posted by: Huh | Mar 6, 2010 10:11:47 PM

Just some random ramblings...

The guy who is out of prison, after his second [third or fourth] sex offense on a child, who then murders his young victim after anally raping him [i.e. this scum bag - http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,561444,00.html] does not deserve to breath fresh air. I am not for the death penalty, but in this case I would not object. The sole purpose of the sex offender registration laws were to allow us parents to educate ourselves, and our kids, about the boogie men in our midsts.. yes? However, the laws will do little if no one is utilizing the information disseminated, and most do not.

We all know that the initial law was named after Jacob Wetterling, who by the way was never found and its never been proven that he was sexually abused, nonetheless it should not be suggested that initially, the requirement to register had merit. However, even Patty Wetterling admits that the policies are "driven by anger and fear." In 2007, Wetterling said "it's easy to just get tough on sex offenders... Everybody wants to out-tough the next legislator. 'I'm tough on crime,' 'No, I'm even more tough.' It's all about ego and boastfulness." She also said that "broad sweeping laws that treat all offenders the same waste resources and lives."

IMHO, someone who has sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend, or who possess child porn, should not be treated as harshly as one who molests/rapes a child [or an adult]. In fact, "romeo" cases should not warrant sex offender registration. At best, someone convicted of possession of child porn, if required to register, should automatically fall off the list after no more than 5 years, providing he has not committed another "sex crime" during that time.

The authorities are not able to keep an eye on those who need to be monitored because there are so many people who are registering that have Not had illegal sexual contact with anyone, let alone a minor. Those who cry Chemical castration, longer prison sentences, death to smoochy or "put 'em all on an island" are wasting their time.

Today, the Internet is used much like the TV was when I was young. Mom and dad would drop little Billy and Sara in front of the TV while they went off to their bedroom for a little mommy and daddy time. When a child is solicited on the Internet while using a computer in the "privacy" of his bedroom, I think we should not only arrest the offender, but also put daddy and mommy in prison for lack of common sense. Its time to start placing some of the blame on the parents. This kind of crime is preventable, providing that parents pull their heads out of their ass.

If grandpa puts his hand up little Jenny's dress, perhaps its time to put gramps in a assisted living facility [or get him some new specs]. He's a dirty old man, not a sex offender.

Playing doctor is not a sex crime. As a senior in high school, my psychology books suggested 7 as the average age that a boy will begin masturbating... and girls do it more than boys. A 10-year-old giving his 7-year-old neighbor a tug should never be a reason for calling the police, or DSS. Have we forgot what its like being young?

Posted by: Huh | Mar 6, 2010 11:23:00 PM

After conviction for a brutal crime, a harmless torture like waterboarding should be permitted for as long as the convict withholds information about his other crimes. We should remove the criminal law from the control of the self-dealing and incompetent lawyer. Get rid of these criminal collaborators and enablers. How much can the lawyer suck as a manager of the criminal law before the public fires this rent seeking incompetent?

In the meantime, all negligent, dumbass lawyers involved in fiascos such as the above, should be liable in torts. If they had scienter, they should be subject to exemplary damages.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 7, 2010 1:41:00 AM

hey Huh how about the 50,000 DEAD PEOPLE who were killed by drunk drivers last year and every year for decades. not just molested but KILLED!

WHERE'S the DUI registry and living restrictions.

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 7, 2010 2:54:51 PM

There are two things wrong with the way we deal with "sex offenders" --

1. The term is overly broad. When I see the list of local "sex offenders" I don't know whether the person assaulted a small child or had one of those "I thought she was 18" moments. Neither is good, but you can see one is much worse than the other.

2. We leave mental health out of the equation. If the offenders are mentally ill (some you could make a pretty good case for) -- why haven't they been committed? We had a very bad case here in Cincinnati, serial killer who had strangled, killed, and burned several women and girls. He had gone off the radar of a halfway house right before his last alleged offense. There were some very big clues that he was unwell all along -- people ask why he was out of prison, I ask why he was out of a mental hospital. Clearly a danger to others.

Posted by: Anne | Mar 9, 2010 9:20:34 AM

AWA was a bad idea for this reason alone: No one looked at the actual cases before re-classifying sex offenders. We don't know if "Sexual Battery" Is a Romeo and Juliet, a drunken butt-grab or if it really is some perv who attacked a kid. I only see "Sexual Battery" on the list.. and by the way, the definition of sexual battery includes unwanted advances or touching. Not necessarily anything to do with sex, just one hand touching another's flesh. How can a drunken bar kiss or butt-grab be classified as dangerous as a child molestor or rapist? Yet there are 26,000 people in Ohio alone that went from lowest-level offender to highest, without ANYONE EVEN LOOKING AT THEIR CASE. The judges originally involved in the case heard all the facts and made informed decisions based on likelihood to re-offend... and noone even asks those same judges or prosecutors or attorneys what happened. When I see a charge, that is all I see.. I still don't see what the offender actually did and neither can anyone else. Are we really willing to condemn so many who did not hurt anyone seriously for the actions of the few who do? On top of that, the whole action is illegal anyway.. you can SAY it is not punitive, but that does not necessarily make it so. Ask any sex offender who cant get a job, a place to live, or even volunteer their time somewhere charitable - It's definitely punishment.. and therefore, Illegal.

Posted by: tbuckets | Mar 13, 2010 10:45:16 PM

By the way, only ONE PERSON did this to Chelsea King.. stop treating 700,000 like they all hurt her.. because they did not.

Posted by: tbuckets | Mar 13, 2010 10:46:19 PM

@Supremacy Claus

And a list for murderers, bank robbers, abusive parents...

Posted by: Huh? | Jun 28, 2010 4:01:08 PM

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