Friday, June 04, 2004

Disturbing News on the Neighborhood Front

I got a call from my neighbor last night asking to speak to me regarding a letter I had written for him last year. He had asked me at that time if I would write letter vouching for his character as a good neighbor, father, etc. Against my better judgment, I did, but I didn't feel good about it. I couldn't tell you why, but I knew something wasn't right. All he'd said is that he was having legal troubles and gave no information as to the issue. It really bothers me now that I didn't trust my own instincts. He and his wife had been good neighbors though, and I couldn't think of a tangible reason to refuse.

He came over last night and told me that he had molested a 12 year old girl who had been staying with them. "Behaved inappropriately" was the exact wording. I was beyond floored. I know what everyone says about the child molester next door: "He was so nice and friendly, you would never suspect him of doing anything wrong." In this case, it is true. He always struck me as a wimpy kind of guy, meek and unassuming, but he was always nice and friendly and helpful. He has two little sons who he is always doing things with. My heart is breaking for them.

To make a long, painful story a shorter and painful story, he basically said that last summer, he had "almost" had an affair with the girl's mother, then ended up molesting her daughter. He then confessed to the girl's mother and gave her money to take the child to counseling. The mom wasn't going to press charges, but the counselor she took the girl to reported it to the police. It took the cops 6 months to arrest him. He has now, apparently, been indicted and charged with indecency with a child. He says he isn't denying the charges, but really doesn't want to go to jail and would like to know if I would be a character witness. I made no commitment.

Talk about an awkward situation. My immediate temptation was to boot him out of my house and tell him that if he ever came within 10 miles of my girls I would kill him. I overcame that (what I consider rational) impulse only because he was talking about his full disclosure of the facts and that he was not going to try and weasel out of it. I was torn between wanting to organize a lynch mob and wanting to encourage his absolute allocution and repentance.

I have made the decision not to testify to his character. I know that his kids need him and that they will be deprived of certain material things if he is in jail and can't work. But the girl was 12 years old, and looked it. I had met her while she was hanging out there. Nice kid, the jeans-t-shirt-rollerskate-type, kind of quiet, barely pubescent. For a man in his 30s to find her an object of lust is incomprehensible. This is the conclusion that I have come to and I don't believe that I can, in good conscience, testify that I think he shouldn't be in jail. I don't think he can go there fast enough.

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