Two years ago, two 14-year-old boys from New Jersey decided they wanted to get a laugh out of their buddies. So they pulled down their pants and sat on the faces of two younger classmates, one 11 and the other 12. Young boys apparently consider this funny…
Under normal circumstances, a virtuous yet hard-assed principal would have put the fear of God in them, forced them to apologize to the kids and their parents, then given them about a billion hours of work to do around the school, just so they’d have plenty of time to remember to stop acting like little assholes.
Unfortunately, there are no hard-ass but virtuous principals anymore. Instead, the boys faced criminal sex charges.
One pleaded guilty to criminal sexual contact. A judge found the other guilty of the same crime, since it’s legally defined as a crime with the intent of sexual gratification or to degrade the victim.
The problem is that under New Jersey’s Megan’s Law, such crimes automatically mean you’ll spend the rest of your life as a registered sex offender.
It would seem the value in publicly registering perverts is to warn people that there are sexual predators nearby. We’d assert that while sticking your butt at age 14 into another kid’s face should require you to register on a Junior Douchebag list, it does not make you a predator.
The boys are now appealing their convictions. One claims he didn’t understand the severity of his plea. The other claims his lawyer blew chunks. But if they’re unsuccessful, both will spend the rest of their lives as known perverts.
The problem is that when legislatures pass such laws, they’re usually trying to take discretion away from judges, since politicians love sweeping laws that make them look tough on crime, but allow for no leeway in nuanced cases like this.
So what do you think, dearest reader? Were the boys’ acts egregious enough to warrant the lifetime labels? Or is this just instance of our ineffectual justice system?
See our last story from the Great Moral Dilemmas of the Day file: Jason Fordell Claims He Was Beaten on New York Train Because He’s White.