A young man, our son Jerry, faces a potential prison term of many years for a "crime" committed
in innocence based on the deceit of the "victim". It was a "crime" of mutual love for which
society may ask our son to pay with loss of his years of youth. He was charged with two felony
counts of "lewd and lascivious" assault based on a weekend affair with a young lady he had met
on the Internet. This young lady had told him that she was 18 years old. She came to Florida to
But she was not 18 years old. She was not yet even 15 years old. Our son was misled by the lie
and by her manner and physical maturity. Consensual love occurred. We are told that under
Florida law, guilt of "lewd and lascivious" assault is independent of knowledge about the age of
the "victim". But in this case, does the potential punishment fit the crime? A clean-cut, lonely
young man met a lonely young lady. Yes, God's law against sex outside of marriage was broken.
But man's law would not have been broken had the young man not been led to believe, by the
girl herself, that she was of age.
The jeopardy is great. But even the legal term, "lewd and lascivious" , meaning "dirty and
depraved", does not fit this real- life situation. There was nothing "dirty and depraved" about the
actions of these two young people. And Jerry, loving single father of a four year old daughter is
not "dirty and depraved" in any way. The jeopardy in Florida, we are told, is made even further
more terrifying by Florida's mandatory sentencing guidelines. Is it really possible in our America
that an entrapment of an innocent into such a victimless crime as this can result in the entrapped
being punished equally with the truly "dirty and depraved" pedophiles of the world who prey on
our children? Let us pray that true justice will prevail.
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My son's story started recently on his 24th birthday. To him, that night
seemed like the happy ending to a sad story of loneliness and disappointment.
Instead, it was the beginning of a nightmare that now continues with
promised horrors too terrible to imagine. He had found a kindred spirit, a
kind soul, a pretty girl, a friend with whom to confide, a mutual love at first
sight. Truly, his guardian angel had sent him an angel on his birthday. But a
lie from that angel turned the gift into one of doom and damnation instead of
happiness and ever-lasting love.
Jerry, like many teenagers, had married too young. A father at nineteen. A
single father at 22. His divorced wife Wendy moved with their daughter from
Pennsylvania to Florida . Even though he had always been close to his family,
had many friends back home, and knew not a soul in Florida, Jerry packed
up his things and moved with his dog Rocky to be close to the baby daughter
he adored and loved. He found an apartment a few blocks from Wendy's,
managed to work enough odd jobs on which to get by, and amiably shared
custody of daughter Bekka. But when his mother Alice and I would talk
with him on the phone our hearts would break because the loneliness could
not be veiled by his more cheerful words.
He knew he could not provide for himself and his daughter adequately with
the type of unskilled jobs to which he was being confined. He had a plan to
correct this and in the Spring of 1998, using school loans, grants and help
from us he commenced full-time night studies in electonics at ITT. His
mother and I were thrilled when he finished the first semester with a 3.9
grade point average. As a youngster he had excelled in sports but had been
bored to the point of neglect by academics. To us and to him it appeared that
he was on his way to a rewarding career. He saw and cared for his daughter
frequently and Wendy remained a good friend, but he was still lonely.
TOOL FOR GOOD OR EVIL: Alice and I bought Jerry a computer as a
early birthday present just before the second semester started. We thought it
would help in his school work and we also wanted him to get on the Internet.
I thought we could bring our scattered family closer together using E-mail
since we and each of Jerry's three sisters were on the net. Internet access
commenced about the first week in July.
CHAT ROOM ROMANCE: Jerry was a true novice on the Internet but the
modern user friendliness of the search engines soon entice the new user into
trying out the "Chat Rooms". For a lonely person, isolated in an apartment
virtually alone in a town far away from home, these chat-lines must seem like
the next best thing to being among friends. And to which chat-lines might any
lonely young adult migrate? How about one with the title, "Romance"? That
was the innocent start to a chain of events that has put the lives of all those
who love him on hold and Jerry's on the verge of destruction.
I don't know how the conversation went and I doubt that Jerry could recall it
in any detail. But I can imagine how the friendly chatter starts with multiple
parties on the line; each perhaps telling only enough about themselves to
arouse the interest of the others. Just like in real life, eventually the chatter of
the group gives way to that of one-on-one of a pair. Did they use handles or
real names? I don't know. It does not matter. One of those cyberspace
messages directed to Jerry was ostensibly from a young lady. She invited him
to a "private room". He was so naive that he did not even know what that
meant and had to be given directions on how to get to the "private room".
Who was the enticer here? Once in the private room, their cyberspace
conversations were isolated to just the two of them, or perhaps to others who
had sneaked in to eavesdrop. They shared their lives with one another. Or at
least Jerry did. He told the truth about who he was, how old he was, that he
was a divorced father sharing custody of his daughter, and that he was going
to school. The young lady told a big lie. She said she was 18 years old.
Jerry was lonely and looking for companionship. That is why he was in the
Romance Chat Room. The young lady was in the Romance Chat Room also.
For what was she looking? For thrills? For romance? Or for a way out?
The private room was not private enough, so they exchanged telephone
numbers and the chat room romance graduated to a telephone romance. That
soon led to the next step when the young lady told Jerry she was coming to
Florida with a girlfriend and could he meet her? The meeting place was
about a 45 minute drive for Jerry and they met in person for the first time at
a movie theater. The young lady's looks did not belie her claim to be 18 years
old. The following day she called Jerry again, told him there was nothing at
home to stay for, and would he please come and pick her up? He agreed and
she was waiting for him outside the residence of her girlfriends's
grandparents with whom she had been staying. They spent the remainder of
that night in his apartment. The next day was his birthday and they
celebrated it together.
CRIME OF CONSENSUAL LOVE: Alice and I were attending a family
party in Missouri that Saturday night. There were 17 of us on the host's deck
when we called Jerry to wish him Happy Birthday. We caught him on his cell
phone just as he was returning to his apartment from having been out to
dinner. and the whole group sang the traditional song to him. "That's sweet
but corny", he told us. The new love of his life was with him at the time. She
was still the angel sent from above and they made love that night and Sunday
night. Bekka joined them on Monday and Monday night Jerry left his new
love to baby-sit Bekka as he went off to school. Jerry must have been on a
life-high level far above any he had reached in years.
FURY OF HELL: When he returned home from school Bekka and his new
love had been replaced by two policemen who took him into custody,
questioned him, arrested him on two felony counts, and put him in jail. Not
only had he had no intent to commit a crime, he did not even know one had
been committed. The young lady had lied about her age and had run away
from home. She was not yet even 15 years old, much less 18. Mother Nature,
particularly in modern times, often matures girls to disguise them in ages far
beyond their actual years. Society does not help. Fashion magazines teach
them to dress and use make-up like adults; television and movies encourage
easy and early sex. Highest political leaders set abysmally low moral
standards. Parents, knowingly or otherwise, allow their underage daughters
unmonitored access to the Internet to pretend to be someone they are not.
A PLEA FOR HELP: Mistakes have been made here by many people; Jerry
is one of them. But the threat of extreme punishment hangs over only one of
them, Jerry. His devout Christian mother prays with me for him morning,
noon, and night. His three sisters pray and cry for their little brother because
they cannot understand how society can inflict such severe punishment on one
person who acted out of innocence based on the lie of another. Jerry is numb;
depressed to the point of great concern to all of us. As for me, I still believe in
Justice and Justice here will not put our son, our daughters' brother, Bekka's
father in jail for such an unjust reason.
Please help with your prayers to protect our son and see justice done.
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