Saturday, June 21, 2014

Vigilante Violence is NOT "Justice"

Christine and Jeremy Moody -- Skinhead "Heroes"
How do we rehabilitate a sex offender? They cannot be fixed, what they can do, is convinced the Psychologists that they are ‘fixed’ and they are safe to be released into society. The only cure for child abusers and molesters is to have every member of their immediate family killed. These nefarious crimes and people should not be allowed to procreate. By destroying their immediate family members, you purify the blood line. This is the only way to ensure that they (the pervert or family) cannot ever hurt a child again. Liberals will think that these statements are immature and that I must be empty headed. How many people consider the children that were abused or molested? What about the mental destruction that this child has to live with for the rest of their lives? How these children will find it difficult to ever trust another person. How these children may possibly never be able to have children of their own, because they were raped so severe, that it damaged them permanently? I don't think my suggestion is immature, I think it's the only answer, and if you don't agree, then you two should be destroyed[i].” – Jeremy Moody, “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.” Lulu Publishing, 2012. p.5

On Sunday, June 8, 2014, Jay Maynor[ii] of Cullman, Alabama shot and killed Raymond Earl Brooks, a registered citizen, who had served time for a sex crime against Maynor’s daughter 12 years ago[iii]. As with any story involving so-called “vigilante justice,” there are plenty of individuals coming out of the woodwork proclaiming this man a “hero.” The killer’s family has set up a Facebook page[iv] and a defense fund[v], and has raised $1500 in 10 days (the listed goal is $5000). A few of the comments from the fundraiser page are frightening and disturbing indeed:

There is no room in this world for pedophiles. They cannot be rehabilitated, and there is no cure. They should all be chucked off a boat and left for sharks.” – Holly Perkins

We have several sexual offenders living around us. Unless they start neutering them, I am with Mr. Maynor kind of justice.” – Kat Perry, who donated $5.00

As a survivor of abuse I support Mr. Maynor for seeking justice for his daughter. This demon should have never been allowed to walk the streets again, to have the chance to abuse another child. You are a hero to me Mr. Maynor.” – Jeanna Phillips, who donated $20.00

Jay Maynor's mugshot

A woman by the name of Kayla Maddux[vi], whose Facebook picture is a blue variation of the “Keep Calm” internet meme proclaiming “Keep Calm and Free Jaybird,” posted a comment to detractors at the Cullman Times, stating, “Dont [sic] go trying to tell facts when you dont know them.” When has the lack of facts stop the mass media from exploiting the tragedy for ratings? Even though the AP story didn’t mention the shooter’s name to “protect the victim’s identity,” they had no reservations posting the victim’s mug shot and proclaim him a sex offender[vii]. The lack of details didn’t stop Catherine Connors, an executive with the Walt Disney Company and “award winning blogger,” from writing a post on the Nancy Grace HLN site hinting that what Maynor did, although legally wrong, is understandable and she would be tempted to do the same thing. Connors states, “I know, if something like this happened to me, I might be tempted to do wrong, too[viii].” Michelle Lund from called the victim’s father a “pedo-sympathizer” and claimed that Cullman County Sheriff Mike Rainey cares more about sex offenders than “a father who had to watch her child suffer[ix].” Dr. Drew’s “Behavioral Bureau” also added their two cents[x]. HLN is notorious for focusing on stories such as this one.

The Dr. Drew show deserves a more in-depth critique. I have had the privilege of taking on Dr. Drew’s “Behavior Bureau” on two occasions in the past year. This is how the Bureau works – the show invites a panel of personalities to come on the show to discuss various topics, and not all of the panelists have explicit knowledge of the subject at hand. For this particular episode, the panelists were Leeann Tweeden, a TV sportscaster for poker and baseball’s Anaheim Angels, Anahita Sedaghatfar, a civil defense attorney and TV analyst, and Jason Ellis, a journeyman MMA fighter (who only fought two matches) who hosts a show on Sirius XM radio. Out of three individuals, only one has any degree of criminal justice experience, so the outcome of the show should come as no surprise.

Defense attorney Anahita Sedaghatfar stated she was against vigilante violence and that we can't be allowed to take the law into our own hands, but in the end, she still stated, “I would definitely defend [Maynor]. I think he has a strong case for mitigation in terms of sentencing.” As expected, the discussion simply went downhill from this point. Leeann Tweeden stares glaringly into the camera and proudly proclaims, “You do that to my child, I will shoot you in the head.” Jason Ellis gave the strangest statement of all. So, I don`t wanna -- I already said what I had to say, this -- when you bring up the extra -- I mean, I didn`t remember until I was 40 who the guy was that molested me. So, I didn`t know until I was about 26 that I`d been molested. I had to take a bunch of acid and they also recall it. Then, at 40 I find out who it is, because my body can`t even handle knowing who it is. You did that to that girl in that fashion, I don`t need to be related to the girl, I`ll kill him right now[xi].” It is interesting that Jason Ellis just stated that he “recalled” abuse that happened decades ago. (The False Memory Syndrome[xii] controversy continues, but that is a discussion for a different day.) The point is whether we want a person who took headshots for a living (like Ellis) or some “eye-candy” model who peddles her body for a living (like Weeden) to dictate the rules of society, especially not knowing the whole story behind the murders.

Returning to Kayla Maddux’s statement about knowing “all the facts,” supplemental articles have put together the facts. This is the complete story up until this point. The day of the murder, Jay Maynor got into an argument with his stepdaughter’s boyfriend (investigators say there was “bad blood” between the two men), and apparently, somewhere along the way, the boyfriend used the sexual abuse narrative to criticize Maynor, sending him into a rage. Maynor pulled out a gun and shot into the Berlin Quick Mart gas station where the boyfriend was sitting. Painter then went to the home of Raymond Earl Brooks and ambushed him, killing him in the home of his parents. The defense made the claim that a “catalyst” or “triggering event” that should considered mitigating factors for lowering his bail[xiii].

It is rather ironic that the term “trigger” was used Maynor’s defense since pulling a gun trigger landed Maynor in jail. The term “Trigger Warning” (or TW for short) is a relatively new buzzword. “In the area of mental health, a trigger is something which causes instant distress in a vulnerable person. If you know what can trigger a bad reaction, you can try to avoid those triggers in the same way that someone with an allergy might take steps to avoid dogs.” Trigger warnings first appeared on feminist websites to flag up stories of abuse[xiv]. This word is particularly dangerous because, in the words of Rhiannon Cosslett, triggers “smacked to me of victimhood.” Cosslett does not believe triggers hinder free speech, but states, “they do display an increasingly nannying approach to language that is being used to shut down discourse and to silence. Often, it is coupled with a sense of passive aggressive glee…I do not doubt that they are of enormous service to survivors with specific triggers likely to reoccur on feminist websites, but it has got to a point now where I feel women I have never met are trying to wrap me in cotton wool, and I detest that. PTSD can make you hypersensitive and hyper-aware…[xv]”Furthermore, trigger words perpetuates cultural victimhood; as one example, college campuses are considering placing trigger warnings on classic literature because people do not like feeling even slightly uncomfortable. As one RT reporter proclaimed, “Our kids WANT to be nannied. They WANT to be protected, and feel safe, and coddled[xvi].” And fear justifies some very atrocious behavior, like canonizing a man who shoots into a business establishment because he later killed a pariah of society.

When society canonizes a vigilante, society overlooks a lot of things; however, we should not forget Maynor’s actions have harmed many people, not just the murdered Registrant. Those victimized by Maynor’s actions found Maynor to be anything but heroic.

At Maynor’s bond hearing, “Cullman County District Attorney Wilson Blaylock called two witnesses, Jeremy Trimble and Bobby Weeks, who were present for the gas station shooting. Trimble testified he was present in the store at the time of the shooting and claimed one of the stray bullets came within 10 feet of hitting his child. ‘I was alarmed for my son’s safety and it made my heart stop,” he said. “He tried to shoot someone and shot another man.’Weeks was attending a child’s birthday party at the karaoke business located beside the gas station and said he heard a gun shot then looked outside to see Maynor with a gun drawn chasing another man. At that point, Weeks said he gathered the children together and took them inside for safety. ‘It sounded like he was yelling, ‘Come here you motherfucker,’ Weeks testified. ‘It scared me and the kids[xvii].’”

Jay Maynors shows the world how he feels about the laws of society
“Mike Hays, who cooks and operates a small barbecue restaurant inside Berlin Plaza Quick Stop, where the shooting occurred, said he came face-to-face with the shooter after the man opened fire outside and then entered the store looking for his intended victim, who wasn't hurt. ‘People here are calling him a hero for killing a child molester. I'm calling him a psychopathic lunatic for endangering peoples' lives, including mine,’ Hays said. After stopping his motorcycle at an intersection outside the store, the father fired once at a man who was standing beside an ice cooler, Hays said. The bullet entered an exterior wall of the store and chipped a window but no one was injured. Hays said he retrieved his own weapon and confronted [Maynor] near the cash register. ‘He had the gun down by his side. He was calm, as calm as you are standing there now. But he had that look in his eye,’ said Hays. ‘I have no problem with him shooting a child molester, just not 12 years later. If it was my daughter he would have died back in 2002[xviii].’”

“Brooks' father, Ralph Brooks, told WBRC-TV in Birmingham that his son did not deserve to die. He said Raymond Earl Brooks turned his life around after his conviction and lived a godly life that included being active in his church. Because his son's conviction happened so long ago, he said he couldn't be sure if the shooting was a form of revenge. ‘It would be unbelievable to hold animosity in your heart for 12 years,’ Brooks said[xix].

It should not be surprising with anyone that Jay Maynor had a criminal history. Maynor had made several court appearances over the years—once for DUI and three times for domestic violence (though the domestic violence charges were eventually dropped). It is laughable Maynor’s defense attorney brought these prior charges up in attempt to show the court that Maynor would come to court responsibly and should thus receive a lower bond. Thankfully bail was not reduced [xx].

This story has played out numerous times over the years. This brings me to the statement by Jeremy Moody at the beginning of this article. Moody’s proclamation could have been written just as easily by any anonymous commenter. But Moody’s proclamation was written in a self-written skinhead manifesto, alongside discussions on racial purity and ethnic cleansing. (Ironically, the head of Moody’s skinhead group, known as “Crew 41,” is a Registered Citizen[xxi].) Patrick Drum, who murdered two registrants in Washington State in 2012, had 47 criminal convictions over a 15 year period, including assault, drug, and burglary charges. One of his victims landed on the list for a consensual act with a teen when he was 17 years old. Drum and the Moody clan were unrepentant thugs with disgusting pasts. Had they killed anyone else, society would not have given any of them a second thought except to call for the heads of these men on a silver platter. But because their victims were Registered Citizens, people want to give murderers a free pass.

Even the Neo-Nazi skinhead Jeremy Moody had support from the public, as illustrated by this statement from a CNN commenter:

Kimberly269life – “In this case the dude had been convicted of a sex crime on a child!where is the good old killemall mindset we normally apply to pedophiles?What is your prob people? Pedophilia is a well known incurable condition-even castration doesn not cure this despicable condition in many men! He def needed killing.His wife on the other hand seems to have been collateral damage-but thats the price you pay for being connected to child molesters! Its true that many wives allow crimes against children-their own and others-by doing nothing and turning away.They are culpable.They are helping ! Nazis and other white supremists are really disgusting people-yes-but the pedophile is probably even lower ...frankly its a win/win from what I can see[xxii]” [Grammatical errors included]

The vigilante violence and the people who support them are definitive proof the registry, or any degree of public disclosure of Registered Citizens in the community, should be abolished. Until the registry is abolished, we will see this same story play out repeatedly in the coming years. Patt Morrison from the LA Times says, “Justice in a democracy cannot be some tit-for-tat clan vendetta, or determined by bribes or bias. It must be the dispassionate act of the people and the state, whose good order and laws have been violated. Vigilante justice erodes the authority and regard for a legal system that can’t be about vengeance or passion… And when an Alabama father or a California mother usurps that role, they are not heroes, because vengeance is not justice. And justice, not just someone’s child, becomes a victim too[xxiii].” 

The registry is a “catalyst” and a “trigger event” that enrages the community, and when a person is assaulted or murdered because of this registry, justice is perverted.

[ii] In terestingly enough, the AP did not publish the perpetrator’s name, stating “The Associated Press doesn't identify victims of sex crimes, and it isn't naming the man charged with murder to protect his daughter's identity.” Yet, they published the victim's name and picture and proclaimed him a sex offender. See Jay Reeves, “ALABAMA MAN CHARGED IN SLAYING GAINS SUPPORT.” AP, June 10, 2014.
[iii] Trent Moore, “Cullman man charged with murder in Berlin shooting.” Cullman Times, June 9, 2014.
[vi] Apparently Kayla the daughter of Jay Maynor, though she does not list him as her father on her Facebook page.
[viii] Catherine Commons, “Avenging a horrid crime: Right, but still wrong?” HLN, June 18, 2014.
[ix] Michelle Lund, “Jay Maynor, Hero Shoots Man Who Molested His Daughter.”, June 14, 2014.
[x] Dr. Drew staff, “Father charged in shooting death of daughter's molester.” HLN, June 12, 2014.
[xiii] Trent Moore, “Maynor’s attorney: ‘Trigger event’ caused shooting, seeking bail reduction.” June 12, 2014.
[xiv] “Trigger warnings: What do they do?” BBC, Feb. 24, 2014.
[xv] Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, “Why I don’t agree with trigger warnings.” New Statesman, Jan. 29, 2013.
[xvi] “Our Kids Want to be Nannied. We’re Screwed.” The Resident (Russia Today), May 27, 2014.
[xvii] Trent Moore, “BREAKING: Bond reduction denied in Maynor murder case.” Cullman Times, June 19, 2014.
[xviii] Jay Reeves, “ALABAMA MAN CHARGED IN SLAYING GAINS SUPPORT.” AP, June 10, 2014.
[xix] Ibid.
[xx] Moore, “Breaking”
[xxi] “Killing Sex Offenders: The Apparent Hypocrisy of Crew 41.” Southern Poverty Law Center, July 29, 2013.
[xxiii] Patt Morrison, “Opinion Does an angry parent killing a child molester ever serve justice?” LA Times, June 17, 2014.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Defending the “Worst of the Worst”

A couple of months ago, I was invited to “Dr. Drew On Call” on HLN. This was my third HLN appearance in less than a year. The topic for discussion was whether a person deemed the “Pillowcase Rapist” should be released into the community after serving 18 years in civil confinement for a series of rapes. The idea, of course, was to find somebody willing to defend this person on TV so the rest of the “Behavior Bureau” can act shocked and appalled and stir up the emotions of those watching the program. Predictably, there was some outrage directed at me for defending this man. One person suggested I should've joined the chorus of condemnation, while a fellow activist claimed I set the movement back five years. I find these assumptions absurd, of course.

If anything, the sex offender reform movement seems to have a great fear of actually standing up for our rights at times. There is a bit of philosophical disagreement, even in a relatively small movement such as this. We have individuals who only fight for “R&Js” (for outsiders reading this, that is short for “Romeo and Juliet,” or teens on the list for having consensual sexual relations with one another), or some only for hands-off offenders, or those only considered low level registrants. It certainly is not easy to try to defend the rights of an individual who was convicted for raping 38 women. Obviously, a couple of comments directed towards me were based out of fear – at the least, a fear of losing what little reputation or credibility we have as a movement.

I recognize there is an erroneous belief by the general public that “sex offender advocacy” somehow implies that we condone what the individual did, or “advocating for the right to abuse people.” Or, if we allow this person to obtain any degree of comfort or stability, such as having a roof over his head or a job, then we condone his past behavior. I do not condone his past actions. However, the argument is not about condoning a man's past, but about giving this individual the opportunity to become a productive member of society once he has served a court mandated sentence, no more, no less. He was tried, convicted, and confined to civil commitment, and now the civil commitment center deems he is ready to be released. The system has spoken.

It is not easy to stand up for the constitutional rights of an individual of somebody as notorious as someone who has a nickname like the “Pillowcase Rapist.” However, as a person who believes that the U.S. Constitution should apply equally to all citizens, as it has been interpreted since the values were committed to paper. The rights that were enumerated by the Constitution were put in there for good reason. The individuals who founded this country felt persecuted and their individual freedoms violated by the British, so they instituted policies to ensure that the rights of the few were not trumped by the rights of many. Instead, a balance was to be achieved between individual freedoms than the needs of society as a whole. Obviously, the founding fathers had a number of injustices committed against them in their minds as they wrote the U.S. Constitution.

As I mentioned before, many outside our cause obviously believe that we are advocating the right to sexually abuse other individuals. That is untrue, obviously, but people cannot separate the past from the present. My personal belief is if an individual commits a crime, we have a system in place that punishes wrongdoers and that that individual should be punished in accordance with the law of the land. The system is far from perfect, and there are always reforms to be made in the system, but the system is what it is.

However you may feel about an individual sentence, what should remain constant is that when an individual serves a court mandated sentence, the individual who served time should be given a fair chance to become a productive member of society. That is not to say I demand an individual to invite a registered citizen into their home, cooking dinner, and let Junior set on his lap (though very few registered citizens would be a threat to Junior in the first place). What I advocate is that post-conviction “remedies” such as public shaming registries, residency restrictions, extortion fees, and related laws be abolished. Punishment should remain within the confines of the criminal justice system, whether the person being incarcerated or placed on community supervision.

What I desire to see is that the system continues to be reformed in a way that honors the Constitution passed by our original founding fathers, one that seeks a true balance between individual freedoms and public safety. We must pass laws based upon evidence, not raw emotion. Allowing the victim industry to call the shots and pass public policy on the basis of revenge motive has created a system by which we punish teenagers for taking naughty pictures of themselves or having consensual sexual relations with one another the same way we would treat an individual who was convicted of raping 38 adult women.

A more ideal system would allow an individual accused of a sex crime an adequate defense; because sex crimes are emotionally charged, we must make steps to ensure that individual rights are not trumped by emotional appeals and public opinion. The accused must be given the opportunity to mount it adequate defense without running afoul of laws that limit the ability to bring the credibility of the accuser into question. The media must be held accountable for their portrayals and sway over the public opinion of the case before it goes to trial. Potential jurors should be questioned on their views about sex offenses and those who commit them before they are allowed on a jury. I person should be convicted based upon evidence, not just on the basis of an unfounded allegation alone.

A more ideal system would couple punishments with rehabilitation. By rehabilitation, I mean evidence-based, heterogeneous programs that holding individual accountable while helping them to overcome their personal struggles. Programs that shame the individual and the simple act of warehousing individuals with lengthy prison sentences have proven to be ineffective methods of rehabilitating individuals serving time. If a person is incarcerated, then that person should be placed in the programs that will help an individual prepare for an offense free life in the outside world.

A more ideal system was established more transitional housing for individuals released from incarceration in order to assist them in successfully reintegrating to society. There are ready a number of successful programs across the country, including faith-based initiatives and groups like Circles of Supports and Accountability (CoSA), which have been proven to increase the likelihood that a person convicted of a sex crime will not re-offend. It is especially important during those important first three years of post-release to assist in individual in obtaining adequate housing, employment, and support to minimize the already low likelihood of recidivism. Public registries, residency restrictions, and other shaming tactics should be completely abolished, as they have been shown to disrupt the successful reintegration of individuals who have already served their sentences.

What does it really mean to be an advocate for the rights of registered citizens? It does not mean advocating against punishment of individuals who commit harm to others in a sexual manner. What it does mean is advocating for a fair and just system by which individuals who have committed crimes are punished justly, while maintaining the rights granted to us by the U.S. Constitution. We advocate a system in which decisions are based upon factual evidence, not appeals to revenge oriented emotion. It seems quite simple, because it is quite simple. The standard is universal, and we do not make exceptions. After all, the proclamation was made that "all men are created equal," even the “worst of the worst.”

Do I honestly believe on a personal level that the so-called “Pillowcase Rapist” will succeed? Probably not. The evidence is not in his favor, as repeat offenders are more likely to reoffend than single-offense registrants. He's going to be closely monitored, with the GPS monitor and a probation officer looking for any reason to send him back to prison. If anything, he may be back in prison within a couple of weeks for missing a curfew or not plugging in his GPS. People will feel better and move on to the next scare story of the day. There is also the possibility that this man keeps his nose clean and lives out the rest of his days of free man, much to the disdain of all those who have an opinion about him. We simply can't admit that we can't predict human behavior. I can be completely wrong about this man. What I do know is so long as this person is free I want him to be as productive a member of society as he can possibly be, because I know if he fails, no matter the reason, all of us on the registry pay the price.

Of course, making an entire group pay for the mistakes of a single individual is unconstitutional, but that is a rant for another day.