Saturday, August 04, 2007

The strange case of Jack McLellan

It's not exactly a case of punishment fitting the crime. As concerns the punishment meted out to Jack McLellan by Superior Court Judge Melvin Sandvig in Los Angeles, on Friday, it's more a matter of there not actually being any crime to punish - outside of McLellan's head, that is. Unlike those we hear about who prey on little girls, McLellan talks about it on television and has operated a web site discussing his obsessions and his methods of getting close to children and photographing them. At one time he posted photographs legally taken of young girls in public places like parks and playgrounds, but he no longer does because of public outrage.

McLellan has no arrest record. There is no evidence that he's ever committed any crimes and he claims that he never will, yet this homeless man, currently living out of his car, was served with a temporary restraining order while on his way to Chicago to make a TV appearance. He is forbidden to get withing 30 feet of anyone under 18; a condition that will make it difficult to be anywhere in public and nearly impossible to enter any commercial establishment. Since stories about him have begun to run in the media recently, mothers of small children have been making frantic complaints that their children have been photographed and the traditional hysteria that defines America is in full bloom. If you're scruffy looking and unshaven and even perhaps if you're not, it can't be a good time to be out on the streets in Southern California with a camera.

Of course this is a temporary order and he will have a chance to challenge it at a hearing set for August 24th, but I have to wonder at preemptive prosecution and thought crimes and their place in this formerly free country where fear and terror and hysteria issue from the media and consumed by the public like water from the tap. I don't want to make too strong a comparison between Salem and Santa Monica, because child molesters really do exist and witches do not, but with more and more localities putting special codes on drivers licenses tagging the owners as sex criminals for the rest of their lives; with more areas forbidding anyone once convicted of unspecified "sex crimes" to own a house or rent an apartment or have an internet account, I have to wonder if we aren't re-creating the medieval concept of outlaw. My disquiet isn't helped by the fact that more things are being labelled as "sex Crimes," including public urination or "mooning" someone out a car window and the perpetrators of such juvenile things can be linked for life with rapists and punished in perpetuity. It would be more than disquieting if such people weren't actually guilty of anything.

5 comments:

Reign of Reason said...

1984 is here...

Intellectual Insurgent said...

The return of the scarlet letter - but now it's for men too.

expatbrian said...

I haven't read about this case but I'm not surprised. Californians (I am one) and indeed Americans in general love to persecute others without mercy, all the while hiding worse deeds and fantasies of their own in the closet. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty and being free once you have paid for your crime (or non-crime as the case might be). Hysteria is right.

Capt. Fogg said...

Judging from the kinds of comments people leave on the on line edition of the local papers, due process is for wimps, commies, Liberals and other America haters.

If these SOB's could still get away with lynchings they would be out with ropes and bedsheets every night.

Mark Foley, my former page-pinching congressman was trying to pass legislation that would make all pictures of naked children a felony to own or look at or create ( except for those he kept in his bedroom, no doubt) I was almost for it because I just had to see how they would cope with all the religious art in all the churches and museums. Fig leaf on Baby Jesus and a shirt on Mary?

sundersartwork said...

The Mark Foley comment made me laugh, i wonder how many politicians foaming at the mouth about pedophiles would like it if we asked that the content of their computers hard drive was made public. Pedophiles and rapists are rare, and stranger attack is rarer still since most crime, sexual or violent is intra familial and intra racial. The best defence is , as ever, education. Parents educating their children in a way they can understand about how to be safe and how to report inappropriate behaviour and how to avoid it. Monitoring of sex offenders can be done with a steady head and using therapy and contact with the authorities. It really is not difficult. But as per your post, i would always be wary of avoiding tabloid hysteria which helps no one and solves nothing.