Many who consider themselves 'patriots' measure their fervor by their willingness to accept military service as a cost inherently associated with liberty and the American way. I have a much more complicated view, but that is not the point of this essay. Rather, as one who militantly supports the benefits that veterans receive for their time in uniform, I want to examine a specific instance of a veteran's downfall. This case, one of many instances in which vets whom I know have received less than full backing from the society that put them in harm's way, may very likely represent a systematic problem, but it definitely indicates that our citizenry does not recognize the true 'price of freedom,' which is to say political participation at every level of the process by those who hope that the outcomes are fair and beneficent.
My friend, 'Karl,' has ended up behind bars in Walton County, Georgia. I've known him for eleven years: I know about his corny-as-Kansas origins, where his parents prospered; about his stint in Vietnam, where he lost most of his elbow and merited disability pay in perpetuity; about his Republican leanings and Horatio Alger faith, neither of which has prevented his descent into homelessness and barely keeping body and soul together; about his late-in-life loneliness, to alleviate which he sought my wordsmith skills to write a Match.com ad that specified 'over 40, please;" and about plenty more in addition.
Today, after eighteen days in solitary confinement, Walton County's D.A. pontificated that Karl represented an imminent threat to children everywhere and should remain in jail until trial, or at least, "until the FBI can search his computer" for more than the single instance of 'tight teen twat,' or something similar, that the officers found on his screen nearly three weeks ago. Only a spirited appeal to a Veteran's Day dispensation, on the part of the attorney that Karl and his friends have retained, prevented the DA's wishes from coming to pass.
Nineteen days ago, since he didn't want to pay for a weekly extended stay room until the beginning of the week, he'd decided to spend the night in his car. Before heading to the local park where he normally sleeps, he had ensconced himself in a Wendy's parking lot, after closing time, to check his e-mails and surf the web.
As a lonely old fart, he frequents Match.com and similar virtual hang-outs. To this I can attest, since I've helped him describe himself to possible paramours on a couple of occasions. He maintains that, around midnight, a 'sea of pop-ups' flooded his screen, and, when he attempted to rid himself of them, he inadvertently opened some, which in turn activated others. Then, he says, his Norton security program warned of some sort of invasion, so he parked this host of interloping virtual bandits at the bottom of his screen, for his brother, a computer wiz, to check in the morning.
At this point, Monroe City and Walton County officers, who were observing him after a lingering Wendy's employee had called in a 'suspicious loiterer,' turned on their flashlights, confiscated his laptop and charged him with violating Georgia's relatively new 'child endangerment' statute, which basically says that any electronic engagement of 'tight teen twat'(TTT) is a felony punishable by one to twenty years in prison. Apparently, exactly one of the screens that was open or parked on his system constituted TTT, an inference based on the fact that the authorities leveled only one charge against Karl, even though the law specifies that each download is a distinct criminal act, chargeable in its own right.
Karl has never gone to jail before, for anything, nor could the State's barrister provide a single instance of even a hint of sexually predatory behavior, toward children or otherwise. Moreover, he consistently has denied any intention of engaging underage girls, TTT or otherwise, whether virtually or actually.
Under these circumstances, the fierce resistance to a bail bond seems anomalous, unless the purpose of the law is something other than protecting children. Clearly, my friend does not represent an obvious threat, especially inasmuch as the State can closely monitor his movements on the outside, which they will do with an ankle monitor while he is on bail. Why might W. Kendall Winne, Jr., the DA, have anything other than the good of Georgia's youngsters in mind?
On one of the nights at 11:30 that several of us visited Karl during a thirty minute visitation window, I came upon a possible answer to that question. Since only one person could address my bound and shackled friend through the plexiglass, on a phone from the 1970's that barely worked, I decided to pick up the link for a young fellow whose visitor had not shown up.
Michael, a boyish 25 year old, another veteran, is serving four years for what he called "one stupid decision on a computer on a Saturday night" a year and a half ago. So he admits intentionally engaging TTT, though he had no record as a 'sex offender' prior to that, nor did he suggest that he had a predilection for young girls. "There's plenty more just like me in here," he told me. Thus, at least plausibly, District Attorney Winne justifies his existence, and obtains funding and political support, because he has identified a ready source of inmate fodder, at least a couple of whom are former soldiers.
I cannot prove this, at least not yet. Nor do I care to demonstrate yet that the a substantial proportion of the 'sexual offender' business is a fraud and an attack on all expressions of sexuality that step outside the bounds of St. Augustine's views. However, I will challenge those who say that they care for veterans; I will call on those who call themselves progressive. When will we get rid of the laws that demonize our blameless friends and our innocent family members along with the rare miscreant? So long as laws such as this remain on the books, any one of us is an inadvertent keystroke away from felony and hard prison time, though in the event, only the hapless and the poor, a substantial chunk of whom will be veterans, are likely to suffer the consequences. Unless we intend to offer the 'good German' defense, we ought to make sure, starting today, that the litany of victimless crimes that clutter our statutes, are no longer on the books tomorrow.