Jewish World Review July 22, 2002 / 13 Menachem-Av, 5762
In 1932, the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby outraged Americans so much that Congress greatly expanded the role of federal law enforcement and increased penalties for kidnappers who operated across state lines. Now, congressional action is needed again.
It is clear to many Americans that children have become targets. The priest-pedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church, the abuse of foster children in Florida, and the bold abductions of Samantha and Elizabeth send a powerful message. We'd better get tougher and more efficient, quick.
The truth is that local and state law enforcement lack the power to deal with child predators in an age of rapid transportation and the Internet. Also, some local jurisdictions are simply not up to the task of protecting kids.
For example, the authorities in San Diego should be applauded for fast-tracking the case of 7-year-old Danielle Van Dam -- who was snatched from her suburban home and brutally murdered after a sexual assault. But the trial of accused killer David Westerfield is still underway because the California judge presiding decided to take a vacation in the middle of the proceedings. Can you believe that? I can't.
Another example is the continuing chaos in the state of Florida. Four-year-old foster child Rilya Wilson disappeared 19 months ago, and state officials don't have a clue. Then, just last week, the state received a call from a grandmother saying her daughter was abusing her babies. The Broward County Sheriff's office investigated -- found nothing wrong -- and did nothing. One day later, the woman murdered her 5-year-old daughter and herself by driving into Biscayne Bay. Miraculously, her 10-month-old baby, Reggie, survived.
And then there's the Catholic Church. There is no question based on civil depositions that Cardinal Law of Boston and Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles allowed child-molesting priests to continue working on their watch. And there is no question that some of those priests raped children again and again. Yet the cardinals have not been charged with aiding and abetting primarily because the local authorities are afraid of the firestorm that would follow any indictment of a powerful cleric.
Add to this the fact that many child predators roam from state to state, and you can make a compelling argument that the federal authorities must take over all criminal prosecutions of those charged with harming minors.
So I propose this: a new law called the "Child Criminal Protection Act of 2002." Under this law, any adult charged with harming a child younger than 16 years of age would be tried in a federal court and sent to a federal prison. Only this prison would be special. Each convict would be housed alone in a cell and mandated to do hard labor six days a week. The prison would be located in an isolated location, and there would be no parole, no TV, no weights, no visitors and no amenities.
There would also be mandatory sentences imposed on all convicted child predators, so that some loony judge could not "understand the criminal" and bust down the sentence. Right now, a judge in Michigan has infuriated prosecutors that charged a woman with first-degree murder for killing her children. That woman left two little kids locked in a scalding hot car for four hours while she was at a day spa. The woman even left the spa to get a drink but did not check her kids. They died a gruesome death. They couldn't get a drink.
The judge declared that the woman did not intend to kill her children and busted down the charges to involuntary manslaughter. This could not happen under the proposed Federal Child Criminal Protection Act.
The reason we even have a federal government is to protect all Americans, and that includes the weakest among us -- little kids. There is no reason on this earth why we should not have draconian penalties and the power of the federal government to deal with adults who commit these evil acts.
We need some heroes on Capitol Hill. We need somebody to stand up and make a statement. American is a great country, but we do have our share of evil. And those who embrace evil should be sent this notice: Hurt a child, and the full weight of American power will descend on you.
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07/15/02: Reaching critical mass