The Sex Offender as Scapegoat: Vigilante Violence and a Faith Community Response

Hugh Kirkegaard & Wayne Northey, Emory University

Excerpt: "René Girard argues that the founding moment of culture is in fact violence, which then scapegoats in order to bring social cohesion. A "scapegoat mechanism" as described earlier arises to siphon the violence away from the community, thereby creating peace for a time within the society. In religious cultures, this kind of violence invariably took the form of myths, rituals, and prohibitions legitimizing the violence against the victim or victims. In the secular West, the ultimate non-religious instance of the same dynamic is the Holocaust."

The Sex Offender as Scapegoat: Vigilante Violence and a Faith Community Response

The Politics Of A Paedophile Panic

By Mick Hume, "Spiked" (U.K.)

It used to be said that patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel. In politics today, their last resort is more likely to be a paedophile panic. ...

The numbers of child murders in Britain remain as low as ever, and there is no evidence that any number of new anti-paedophile laws or PR campaigns reduces the minimal risk to children. But then, the current furore is not really about paedophiles. It is about politics. ...

It is against this background that Reid has seized upon the paedophile issue in a desperate attempt to ‘connect’ with a constituency, to show that New Labour shares the public’s concerns on one issue where everybody agrees there is a clear line between Good and Evil. Playing the populist card against an imaginary army of sex offenders at the school gates is a rare opportunity for a politician like Reid to pose as a man of the people, and have a swipe at the bewigged judges while he is at it. ...

It is not often we on spiked find ourselves agreeing with much that a chief police constable has to say. But Chief Constable Terry Grange of Dyfed-Powys, the child protection spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers, had a point when he suggested this week that the government had ‘surrendered’ policy on child sex offenders to tabloid newspapers. ‘It is impossible to work consistently, coherently when every month or every six months there is a policy change or reaction brought about by pressure from the media…. The only people with any real strategic intent and understanding of where they want to go and the will to be ruthless in getting there is the News of the World.’ ...

In the process these legal gestures also risk sweeping away important principles of criminal justice, such as the notion that people are punished for what they do, not what they might do or even fantasise about doing in the future; or that criminals who have served their time are considered to have, in the traditional phrase, ‘paid their debt to society’. If these principles are no longer to apply to those convicted of sex offences, what about others? Why not a public register of convicted murderers, drug dealers, drunk drivers or wife beaters in our communities?

As I have argued before on spiked, after the conviction of Sarah Payne’s murderer in 2001 put the campaign in the headlines, ‘Sarah’s Law can’t protect us from fear’. Nor could a law protect us from politicians and others prepared to stoop so low to exploit our most basic concerns....

There will be no winners from this messy, tired panic. Every time the government introduces a new crackdown on child sex offenders, it will only give rise to demands for yet more, fronted by a haunted victim’s mother. Yet there are likely to be plenty of losers. Paedophile panics risk damaging everything they touch, from the criminal justice system to public trust and intelligent debate. Nor do they offer any respite to the relatively small numbers of real victims, whose ordeal can only be made worse by endless public scrutiny and pronouncements that their lives have been ruined. As for the millions of children who will never experience this sort of abuse, the current climate risks sentencing them all to a life of mistrust and insecurity.

We are witnessing the politics of the jailhouse, where everybody seeks to demonstrate that, whatever else they might have done, they are on the side of Good against the threat posed by Evil perverts. Some of us have argued since the morbid obsession with child abuse escalated almost 20 years ago that fear itself is the greatest threat to our children’s future in a free society. This is no time to be put off that argument by the emotive words of a young victim’s mother, or those who would use her as a human shield.

Civil Commitment Upheld, Allegedly Stared at Young Boys

Bismarck Tribune

North Dakota’s Supreme Court upheld a Grand Forks man's commitment to the state mental hospital for treatment as a sexual predator.

The court's decision Thursday was split. Justice Carol Ronning Kapsner says there isn’t enough evidence to conclude Christopher Midgett was a predator.

When psychologists decided to put Midgett into the hospital, they cited two instances where Midgett allegedly stared at young boys. Kapsner says that isn’t enough evidence to lock someone up indefinitely for treatment.

Midgett was confined as a juvenile in Texas for molesting a 5-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy. Court records say he was 13 when he was confined. He’s now 25 years old.

Midgett’s attorney says he should have been allowed to question the witnesses who accused him of staring at boys. The Supreme Court’s justices agree that Midgett’s right to confront his accusers doesn’t apply during civil commitment proceedings. [Ed: This is reminiscent of the so-called "rape stare" allegation Atascadero (CA) female staff employ to sabotage patient's records. The scary thing is, there is nothing surprising or out of the ordinary in a man being civilly committed for life on the basis of "staring" in our country today. Indeed, it is now commonplace. The other important point here is that, despite the fact that the defendant is in the process of losing his freedom completely, civil commitment procedures accord the defendant far fewer rights than they would have in a criminal proceeding. This is all predicated on the conceit that he is "not being punished" by being civilly confined but rather he is "undergoing treatment" and "society is being safeguarded". Please, dear Lord, save us from our protectors!]

Lakeport murder brings national attention

By Elizabeth Wilson--Record-Bee staff

LAKEPORT -- Michael A. Dodele, 67, was murdered last month, just two months after he was released from 20 years in prison for sexual assault of a 37-year-old Santa Rosa woman.

The story is unfolding as one with nation-wide interest as Dr. Phil and National Public Radio, among others, peer into the county in hopes of finding out what, exactly, led to Dodele's death just 20 days after he moved to a lake-side mobile home park.

Dodele was likely sought out by the killer due to a confusing list of his sex offenses on Megan's Law a Web registry for sex offenders that led people to believe he was a child molester, although his convictions were for sexual assault on adult women.

The suspect in Dodele's murder is 29-year-old Ivan Garcia Oliver, construction worker and father of a young boy. The child's mother, Oliver, and their son lived together at the mobile home park for about three months. Dodele had moved into the park on Nov. 1, just across the driveway from Oliver's home, about 75 feet away.

According to witnesses and resident manager of the Western Hills Mobile Home Park, Lacey Kou, Oliver had been concerned for the safety of his son the week before the Nov. 20 murder. His son had been molested in the past, he told the L.A. Times during a jail-house interview last week.

According to Kou, incidents leading up to the Tuesday murder of Dodele unfolded the Friday and weekend prior. Like the movie, "Sliding Doors," if even one of the chinks in the chain of unfortunate events had happened differently, Dodele might not be dead.

Oliver's son was playing in the mobile home park by the side of the road, Kou said. Oliver went out to get him, and a suspicious-looking car that was parked on the side of the road sped off. Oliver went to speak to Kou about the incident on Friday, Nov. 16.

"He said, anyone could drive in here and hurt a child,' and I agreed with him I'm a pre-school teacher and so I know about Megan's Law. I worked at a pre-school that Ivan's son went to. I know that you can go online and it shows little red dots on the map around the lake where sex offenders live," said Kou.

She said she mentioned to Oliver that she had heard there were some sex offender registrants living in the area. Together, they looked up the area on the Web site on Kou's computer. She said they weren't searching for anyone living in the park, but when Dodele's listing popped up, they recognized his photo.

She said the address was incorrect on the Web site, listing it as "3535" instead of the correct address of 3555 Lakeshore Blvd, Lakeport, CA.

A representative with the California Department of Justice, Gareth Lacy, said that in Dodele's case, his Megan's Law listing was removed on the day of his murder because he was deceased.

"That is one of several reasons; others being that the person is deported or is no longer required to register. In this case, yes, the individual is deceased so their record is no longer on the Web site," Lacy said.

Megan's Law listed Dodele's offenses as "rape by force" and "oral copulation with a person under 14 or by force." Because of that wording, it appeared to Oliver and others that Dodele was a child molester. The second conviction blends two distinctions, and Dodele's conviction was for the "or by force" part of the state criminal code. None of his crimes were against a person under 14, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff, who is prosecuting the case.

Oliver's immediate reaction upon seeing Dodele's convictions was very strong, Kou said. "I felt something might have happened to him in the past because of his reaction," Kou said. "He said something has to be done,' and that he didn't think he (Dodele) should be allowed to be there. I didn't know exactly what had happened with what he'd been charged with. It was kind of creepy. We were really shocked because that man just moved in." Kou asked her mother for advice, because she wasn't sure if legally Dodele should be allowed to live at the park. They called the Lake County Sheriff's Department (LCSD) as Oliver stood by. "My mom said, we should call and ask the Sheriff what your responsibility is to the residents of the park, as well as to protect Dodele.'"

A message was left that Friday afternoon with LCSD Detective Mike Curran. But the phone call was not returned. Kou and her mother still want to know why, saying it may have prevented the murder. "I think the fact that there was no phone call back frustrated him. He kept saying, something needs to be done,'" Kou's mother said.

Lake County Sheriff Rodney Mitchell told the Record-Bee yesterday afternoon that Det. Curran received the message when he returned to work on Monday, Nov. 19. "He added it to his lengthy task list for the week. Mr. Dodele was murdered the following morning," Mitchell said.

That Friday, Oliver went around the mobile home park showing residents the photo print-out of Dodele's Megan's Law registration, vocally expressing his disdain now a known-misunderstanding that Dodele was a child molester.

Kou said she told Oliver to "hold back and we'll do this the right way."

"I really thought he might confront him, but I didn't think he'd go that far," Kou said. She contacted the owners of the mobile home park, Barry and Sharon McKeehan of Redwood Valley, who made plans to meet with Dodele on Tuesday evening to talk to him about his convictions and their concerns.

"They were going to come down and speak with him and let him know that they felt all the other tenants should know, and also to find out what happened exactly. He was a convicted rapist and we have some single women living in the park, which was a concern...They were going to tell him if he wanted to relocate they would give him his [prior rent] money back," Kou said.

Oliver is being held without bail at the Lake County jail on murder, burglary and elder abuse charges. He is also under federal indictment in San Diego County for allegedly dumping five 55-gallon drums of paint containing the toxic chemical Toluene into Slaughterhouse Canyon Creek in El Cajon in March 2005. He was indicted a week after his arrest in connection to Dodele's death. Oliver's next court date in Lake County is Jan. 7, 2008, when a preliminary hearing is expected to be scheduled. Kou's mother, who had breakfast the morning of the murder in Kou's residence, said they heard no fighting or arguments, and as she was about to leave, they saw a Sheriff's car and ambulance.

"I knew instantly something had happened, then someone said he was dead .I had told Ivan on the phone that Friday to sit tight, and we'd find out what the legalities are, but there was no call back. If it had been straightened out beforehand, this might not have happened This is going to push Megan's Law to be more clear, and it should," said Kou's mother via phone on Wednesday, who wished to remain anonymous.

Kou said, "I told them [LCSD] when they took my statement, we tried to tell you about this ahead of time,' but I'm sure that statement's tossed out. Maybe I should have pushed harder [to contact authorities] I can't believe it happened. It's horrible."