13-Year-Old Girl Reportedly Lies About Age Leading to Statutory Rape Conviction — Twice

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.

For the full story, click here.

40 thoughts on “13-Year-Old Girl Reportedly Lies About Age Leading to Statutory Rape Conviction — Twice

  1. I do agree with “Buddha Is Laughing” on those points.

    Fact of the matter is, at one time the average life expectancy was about 20 years old across the entire planet. Many cultures still practice arranged marriage as early as 12 and in Egypt this was the average age of the Pharaohs.

    There is also a Scientific Principle that applies here. In an experiment done on Flies, it was shown that the age at which an organism has children affects it’s life span and rate of development in future generations.

    Having children younger and younger results in a lower overall life span for your great grand children if the pattern continues but can result in, for example 13 year old girls who are fully developed.

    On the flip side, waiting to have children results in a longer life span and slower development.

    Yes, I know, diet and hormones are also a factor, but not the only factor. age of sex simply applies to the built in biological clock, a form of evolution to ensure a species lives long enough to reproduce and raise it’s young which is part of the larger science of Epigenetics.

    It could be argued that the age of consent should be adjusted to reflect the reality of sexual development.

    It can also be argued that waiting to have children until you are 30, as many career minded couples do, can result in a longer life spans and adults who look more like children, which would result in the raise of consent going up to 30.

    All of these are reasonable questions to make.

  2. The real problem is denial about human sexuality, usually based on religious grounds instead of ethical grounds, and improper sex education.

    The facts are:

    Teens experiment with sex. They will lie to anyone required to do so. I’ve seen me, er, them do it. It doesn’t matter what the “number” the state picks is because at about 13-14 (or earlier), the hormones start kicking in. Hormones make you CRAZY. That isn’t open for debate. Some people never overcome thinking with their genitalia first and their brains second. This is in no way meant to endorse sex with children by adults. I do hate child molesters worse than I hate fascists (and that’s saying something) but the difference between an 18 and 15 y.o. mentally and physically is far far different than between a 40 y.o. and 15 y.o. In that instance, well, the adult is likely the one with the issues and should bear the brunt of legal sanction. Physical age may be absolute, but sexual and emotional maturity are relative. Accordingly, that should be figured into proper legal recourse. ‘Nuff said.

    Homosexuals have been around as long as heterosexuals. And vice versa. Even in the military. Ask Alexander the Great.

    Education and fighting poverty can both reduce both unplanned pregnancy and potentials for abuses as evidenced by data collected globally related to unplanned pregnancy.

    And that is all I have to say about that.

  3. One quote sums up the overall problem in so many cases:

    LAW, n.

    Once Law was sitting on the bench,
    And Mercy knelt a-weeping.
    “Clear out!” he cried, “disordered wench!
    Nor come before me creeping.
    Upon your knees if you appear,
    ‘Tis plain your have no standing here.”

    Then Justice came. His Honor cried:
    “Your status? — devil seize you!”
    “Amica curiae,” she replied —
    “Friend of the court, so please you.”
    “Begone!” he shouted — “there’s the door —
    I never saw your face before!”
    —G.J.

    (from the Devil’s Dictionary.)

    But that’s why Pardons exist. The Pardon is there for cases where the law is too harsh and cannot consider all variables because of how it is written. Doesn’t mean we can’t complain when we think the way a law is written is unjust and demand improvements.

  4. It’s really not about what you or I think is Morally right or wrong.

    Personally, I believe (as do some states, not all) that if a child has demonstrated a history of sexual behavior she has demonstrated enough sexual knowledge to make an informed choice about it. And some people (and states) disagree.

    So in essence, whatever is defined as a crime, is a crime. Be is just or unjust. In the example of homosexual activity, however, you really have to look to see if the same actions between a man and a woman would be criminal because the Supreme Court ruled against gender discrimination in such cases. For example, “Romeo and Juliet” laws exclude cases between same sex, but this was successfully challenged. (see wikipedia) But some states and even cities have public Decency laws regardless of gender.

    But I do get your overall point. And the answer is, yes. If a child is breaking a law and I permit allow or encourage that action than I am responsible. Regardless of my or your opinion of the law.

  5. Elliander:

    “But more on point, a Parent is responsible to teach a child between right and wrong. When a parent does not teach the child what is right, or turns a blind eye to what is wrong, they are guilty of a criminal act.”

    **********

    Well let’s run with your idea. I say homosexuality is wrong morally, and you disagree. Our kids grow up under these rules and decide to cohabit in a homosexual lifestyle. While driving through Georgia with the top down one sunny June day in 2002, they become amorous, and since Georgia still defines this as aberrant sexual behavior, they arrest them both. Should you be prosecuted by those Peachstaters, and not me?

  6. oh, I should add that the reason the myspace page applies to this is because the myspace page has been shown to put the child in potential harm in at least two recorded case.

    Key phrases being, “Any action by an adult that allows or encourages” and “places children in situations that expose them to illegal behavior.”

    Her myspace page put her into situations that exposed her to illegal behavior and failure to act on the part of any adult who knows and can act applies.

  7. It doesn’t really matter if there is a liability cap or not, or how a given state classifies it. The point to mention is that parents are supposed to be responsible for the actions of their child. If only to the extent that a parent is supposed to teach a child between right and wrong.

    In this particular case, this directly applies in a concept called “Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor” where “Any action by an adult that allows or encourages illegal behavior by a person under the age of 18, or that places children in situations that expose them to illegal behavior.”

    Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor

    Since the parents were aware of the myspace page for more than a year, that in and of itself makes them liable to criminal charges. I could even be so bold as to say the very Judge in both cases is guilty of “Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor” because he was aware of her myspace page and did nothing about it.

    But more on point, a Parent is responsible to teach a child between right and wrong. When a parent does not teach the child what is right, or turns a blind eye to what is wrong, they are guilty of a criminal act.

  8. CCD:

    I saw that Bob had said that. I was a little surprised by it too. While he and I would likely agree with a civil penalty, vicarious criminal liability is a stretch. I could live with a charge of criminal child neglect though, which of course is a separate offense with differing elements.

  9. Elliander:

    I think those are civil penalties you describe and there is almost always a cap on the damage amount.

  10. Mostly in cases of Vandalism and Theft. I’ll have to do some research in detail. But the underlying reasoning is that Parents have a legal responsibility to teach children between right and wrong and failure to do so is essentially a crime.

    According to Wikipedia on Statutory rape, in reference to a case in Georgia:

    “In some states a man can defend himself against statutory rape charges by proving that his victim was already sexually experienced prior to their encounter (and thus not subject to being corrupted by the defendant)”

    This makes me wonder if such a law exists in Florida, and if so, then if he wasn’t informed of his right to make such a statement in defense he could reasonably expect to go for a mistrial.

  11. “While it is true that a child is not expected to have the same reasoning ability of an adult, it is also true that in cases where a child commits criminal acts the parents are held responsible…”

    ************

    Pray tell where are parents held criminally responsible for the criminal acts of the child? I have never seen it. Civilly maybe, but not criminally.

  12. I should also point out that in cases where an adult pretends to be a child convictions have been made “because you would have.” while at the same time when a child pretends to be an adult convictions are made “because you should have known.” which further examples the fundamental problems.

  13. In light of cases such as this, I think some changes need to be made to the law. While I do agree that in most situations ignorance is not an excuse, the fact that this is a growing problems speaks of injustice in and of itself.

    The whole purpose of such laws against sex with a minor is to protect the minor from an adult. But if the minor is the one picking up adult men, then nothing the law can do can protect her because she is putting herself in harms way.

    The purpose of a registered sex offender list is to display when a person has a pattern of picking up children so to alert those with children to be cautious. But if the Adults in question are going after adult looking girls who themselves claim to be adults then a psychological preference to younger girls cannot be established and therefore undermines the purpose of the registration.

    I think there should be *SOME* punishment in such situations, but in cases where the child looks to be an adult and claims to be an adult there should be a law of automated protection that leniency must be considered and no registration required. If the child uses a fake ID then even less of a punishment on the adult.

    And in the case of at least one of these guys, if the guy seeks verification of age there should be *NO* punishment. What kind of message are we sending, when we send honest guys to jail simply because they were honest. All he had to do was just avoid her after that and/or lie himself and he would never have gone to jail. Is that what we are as a people? To reward dishonesty and punish honesty?

    Furthermore, in cases where the child in question has repeated such “mistakes” a law should be in place to have her removed from her parents and placed into state care pending an investigation as to the parent’s ability to keep her safe. I think that if the Government doesn’t do this, but inflicts any punishment at all on the men she seduces, the law isn’t doing anything to protect her.

    The purpose of Jail time isn’t just to punish someone. It is to keep them off the streets so the crime cannot be repeated. If, in a case such as this, an adult with no other record or history gets the time but nothing at all is done to correct the child’s behavior then the purpose of jail is moot.

    While it is true that a child is not expected to have the same reasoning ability of an adult, it is also true that in cases where a child commits criminal acts the parents are held responsible and in extreme cases child’s can be tried as an adult so there is still a limit as to the child’s legal responsibility and a clear indication that the parent has responsibility to keep the child safe and to stop a problem when they know it is happening.

    I think if a little boy or girl lies about his/her age to get sex then whatever happens to the adult, he/she should get at least a month in a mental hospital via the baker act (Danger to herself AND others) pending a psychological evaluation with a court ban on internet access to social networking sites in much the same way a child hacker can be blocked from using the internet. This would send a clear message to the child that they did something wrong and would also protect the child.

    The fact that the court did not even consider to have her myspace page even took down in either case is horrible.

    I also think serious questions need to be raised against the parents. They were obviously aware of her activities, and that it has been going on for more than a year, and apparently did nothing to correct her, on the contrary making excuses for her. That any court would not find something odd about this is very disturbing.

    Sure, now that the entire internet knows about her it doesn’t look like she will be able to do as much harm to herself or others in the future, but there are more girls like her out there. Changes need to be made, and changes need to be retroactive giving these guys a chance to at least avoid the registration, and giving these girls the right kind of treatment to correct them while they are still children.

  14. Angry Mom:

    I am sympathetic to your plight, but not particularly to that of your son’s. Why must we excuse his promiscuity and credulity because he was willingly mislead? Anyone, even one with an underdeveloped pre-fontal cortex like almost all teenagers, understands that figuratively (or maybe literally here) buying a pig in a poke is fraught with risk. It is unimaginable that he had no idea this was wrong or reckless, and he is rightly being called to account for letting his libido exceed his judgment. If the facts are as you state, he is likely facing a misdemeanor conviction and suspended jail time and community service. This assumes, of course, that this is his first brush with the law, and that you live in a state that doesn’t adopt the “spare the rod and spoil the child” Christian style retribution for sin that you ask us to ignore completely in our intercession to your deity.

  15. My son was recently arrested for Criminal Sexual Conduct Second Degree for getting involved with a girl on the internet. Her myspace which is still active (even after he has been in jail under $15000 bond for almost three weeks now) plainly states that she is 16 years old and her birthday is Feb 28th.

    The girl sneaked out of her house to meet my son and they were discovered half dressed. When questioned by the police the girl told the officer that she was 14 to my son’s surprise. At the bond hearing is the first time we heard that she is actually 13 and won’t be 14 until Feb 28th.

    Needless to say our family is just devistated. My 18 year old son is facing up to 20 years in Jail for believing this girl. She does not look like she is 13 at all (with provocative photos on her myspace page and at least size C+ / D cup bra size that she models in her pics).

    I just don’t think these laws for sex predators were made to punish our young teenage boys that are misled by these fast girls that just don’t realize the consequences the boys face due to their lies. My son was thinking this girl would be turning 17 this month and here she is 13 and he is in JAIL. We are trying to get a bond reduction so that we can get him out before the trial, but that is up to the “Victims Mother” and I use the term Victim loosely.

    This girl is not a Victim, she is a liar and a manipulator. Her mother should be held responsable as well as the girl. The only way to stop this kind of thing from happening is to start punishing the girls that lie and the parents for allowing their kids to have these myspace accounts with false information.

    I am just venting because, I just feel like I have to get if off my chest before I explode. I am VERY WORRIED about my son and his future. He is not an angel, but he does not deserve to be labeled a sex offender for the rest of his life either. Please pray for me and my family as we go through this troubling time. Any help or advice would be appreciated!

  16. Jill:

    That’s an interesting observation from the strange attitude of the parents here. I am likewise intrigued by this notion of “strict liability” in the context of a criminal case. It certainly does produce unfair results as in the now infamous British case of Winzar v Chief Constable of Kent (1983) TLR. There “a drunk, who was in hospital, was taken outside by the Police then subsequently charged and convicted of ‘being found’ drunk on a public highway.” This “state of affairs” analysis is particularly egregious as the prosecution need only prove the defendant was “found” in such a state and place without regard to how he got there. It represents the public’s concern for the actus rea (guilty acts) as opposed to mens rea (guilty state of mind). It is usually reserved for minor offenses like parking violations, but also comes into play in DUI cases. It’s an interesting legal anomaly that rose up and bit these fine fellows who find it thrilling to meet young girls/women online and have relations with them. Caveat stupid!

  17. I would appeal on two bases. First, that strict liability laws such as this are an encroachment on the authority of the judiciary. It is the authority of the legislature to say what the law is; it is the authority of the judiciary to interpret and apply the law. What the legislature does with strict liability laws is to not only define what is illegal and what is not, but also what is evidence and what is not, or what is a defense and what is not. That, I think, is an encroachment on the role or authority of the judiciary. It may even be an encroachment on the authority of the jury, which is charged with weighing the facts as well as the law. Second, that strict liability in a case such as this violates the defendant’s right to due process. What I would argue is, if the age of the victim is the basis for liability, then that part of the law should be interpreted in favor of the defendant because it is a departure from the common law, which would have required knowledge or mens rea. Where is the mens rea when it is the purported victim who has defrauded the defendant into committing a crime?

  18. This case does need a thorough examination to get at what is going on. I would suspect incest. I wish the court would order an evaluation of the home with a very sensitive social worker to privately interview this girl. This examination would benefit the girl and the men who are/may be convicted.

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