Saturday, August 29, 2009

Does playing Romeo & Juliet make you a sexual predator? Ask Wendy Whitaker (or Dan Weber) if this law needs to be changed.

Creative Loafing and the Atlanta blogs (1, 2, 3, 4 & 5) are buzzing about Wendy Whitaker, the Harlem, Ga., housewife who was the subject of a 2006 CL cover story about Georgia’s then-new — and constitutionally shaky — sex offender law, has been arrested for failing to register a new address.

In 1997, when she was 17, Whitaker was convicted under Georgia’s antiquated sodomy law — overturned the next year by the U.S. Supreme Court — for performing oral sex on a 15-year-old classmate. She was sentenced to five years probation and has had to register annually as a sex offender ever since.

But this past Monday, police in Columbia County arrested Whitaker at her mother’s house, charging her with failing to register a new address. If convicted, she faces a 10- to 30-year prison sentence under Georgia law. Last year, a bill to reduce the penalty for failure to register passed the state Senate, but failed in the House.

At this writing, Whitaker remains in jail, unable to make her $10,000 bail.

My good friend State Senator Dan Weber (R-Dunwoody) took to the well in 2007 to change the definition of a sex offender to exclude the circumstances of a Romeo and Juliet romance involving oral sex, but the measure ultimately failed.

Bad laws sometimes have unintended consequences on good people and when that happens the laws need to be revisited and this appears to be one of those times.


Kcaj said...

For additional background:

Sex laws Unjust and ineffective
Aug 6th 2009 | HARLEM, GEORGIA

America has pioneered the harsh punishment of sex offenders. Does it work?

griftdrift said...

Thanks for the link, John. Dan is my Senator and one of the good guys. We've got to fix this.

Fred said...

From the CL article,

As DeKalb County Sheriff, Thomas Brown relentlessly attacks the new law at public gatherings and in the press, he doesn't seem a bit worried about being labeled soft on sex offenders.

"I have a responsibility to tell people in DeKalb when I can't protect them, and this law would have that effect," Brown says. "This law is nothing but election-year politicking by the Republicans."

We must acknowledge that the problem is that legislators are passing laws with mandatory sentences that take discretion away from judges. Unfortunately we don't hear the uproar about that as much as we do about 'activist judges'.

Dan Weber should get credit for attempting to address this problem.