There is a very interesting controversy brewing in Orange County, Florida. A 13-year-old girl Alisha Dean has a MySpace page that portrays herself as a 19-year-old divorced woman. She has been accused about lying to two men — Morris Williams, 22, and Darwin Mills, 24, about her age in two separate incidents. Both have been convicted and sent to jail for statutory rape — regardless of whether the older looking girl deceived them. While her parents admit that they did not take down the MySpace page and that she still stays out late at night, her father insists that minors are not expected to have the same judgment as adults.
In the case of Williams, he testified that she told him that she was 18 and when he later found out the truth he went to her father. He later found out that she had previously resulted in another man being incarcerated. Remarkably, while she still had the MySpace page running the false information, the court still asked that the media not show her picture. The media largely refuses and ran pictures that show a much older appearing individual, as discussed at the link below. Ironically, by not showing her picture, it makes it more likely that a third or more individuals could be charged. Since both Dean and her parents had no apparent objection to posting her image and false story over the Internet, it seems rather strange to encourage the media not to run the pictures — particularly given the direct relation to the defense of these men.
Her father does not seem to view these problems as the result of his daughter or her parental controls. Jerry Dean supported the prosecutions and said “one of the reasons for the law is the fact that minors have poor judgment.” This of course begs the question of the judgment of Jerry as the father. Williams received six years probation with the first year in jail. The other five years he will have to wear an ankle monitor and I suppose he might have to register as a sex offender.
The application of these laws as strict liability offenses robs the system of any sense of balance. If there is a pattern of misrepresentation, it would seem an element that should go not only to the sentence but the merits of the case.
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