Archive for the ‘crimes against children’ Category
These days as parents we’re all trained well enough to find sufficiently creepy the 40-year-old guy who stops by the park to play football with a bunch of 1o-year-olds he doesn’t know. Forget if there’s an unattached child running around at a youth league game. It’s the unattached adult we worry about.
This sensitivity, perhaps hypersensitivity, to strange adults (even those who don’t appear, well, strange) might not always be well-placed. But we know from enough viewings of Dateline, how-not-to-molest-children training and sex offender registries that child predators are everywhere, waiting for an opening to buy your child an ice cream and lead him or her to places you don’t even want to think about.
That was the thought when Jeffersonville, Ind., across the Ohio River from Jason Stinson’s Louisville, passed an ordinance in 2007 prohibiting sex offenders from entering city parks. However, the law did allow for offenders to apply for exemptions — say, if they had a kid, their own kid, playing in a game.
Eric Dowdell, convicted in 1996 of sexual battery of a 13-year-old girl, filed for one of those exemptions. But he did something more: he sued the city (with the help of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union). And on Tuesday, the Indiana Court of Appeals, overturning lower court decisions, ruled in Dowdell’s favor by a 2-1 margin.
The basis for that ruling was that Dowdell, as per his sentence, was taken off the Indiana sex offender registry in 2006. According to the Jeffersonville/New Albany News and Tribune, the appeals court majority wrote that Jeffersonville’s ordinance “is unconstitutional as it applies to Dowdell because he served his sentence and completed his requirement to register on the sex offender list before the ordinance was passed.”
Had Dowdell’s case come up a few months ago, he might have lost again. But on April 30, the Indiana Supreme Court, in Wallace v. State of Indiana, overturned the conviction of an Indianapolis man on charges of failing to register as a sex offender because he had been convicted and served his punishment before Indiana’s sex offender registry was in place. The court said applying current law to something that wasn’t an offense at the time violated the Indiana consitution, and the U.S. Constitution spells out explicitly that states can’t pass ex post facto laws, nor can the federal government.
The Indiana appeals court had more criticism that just barring offenders no longer on a registry. From the News Tribune:
While the Court of Appeals’ decision would only apply to people who were no longer required to register as a sex offender when the ordinance was passed, the opinion was critical of the “excessive” steps that must be taken for a convicted offender to receive an exemption.
Chief Judge John Baker described the exemption process as “extraordinarily burdensome and virtually illusory.” He notes that the offender must provide a “legitimate reason” for the exemption and would have to go through the application process each time a new activity arises.
He writes that the offender is required to provide a “plethora of documents” to the judge, and even then, the judge still must find that “good cause” exists for the exemption. Baker wrote that the ordinance never specifies what would constitute “good cause.”
The court also found that by requiring the offender to notify a sponsoring league organization before requesting an exemption, the offender also is exposed to humiliation.
Interestingly, the same appeals court ruled in favor of a Plainfield, Ind., law that barred anyone currently on a sex offender registry (though not those who had formerly been on one) from entering a cit park. The Indiana Civil Liberties Union has appealed the case to the state Supreme Court, and with the Wallace ruling, there’s some sense it could win.
I have to admit, cases like this challenge my usually let-freedom-ring, liberal ideals. Perhaps that’s because I’m dealing with this issue on a more personal level. Three years ago, the father of one of my daughter’s best friends, who lives only a few houses away, was arrested on charges of distributing child pornography. Believe you me, that was not a pleasant conversation with my kids, the one where my wife and I tried to ask a 6-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy if they ever saw anything, um, unusual in the house, or if the neighbor ever did anything, um, strange to them. Fortunately, nothing happened. (Turns out he was a distributor only, not a creator.)
It was an uncomfortable, interminable time as his case would through the court system. Beyond how to negotiate allowing my daughter to play with her friend while staying away from a creep (she had to come right home if he showed up), I also coached his daughter on softball for two seasons. He mostly kept a low profile, knowing that everyone knew what he was accused of doing (it was in the local paper and on the TV news). But usually he would show up in the middle innings, standing away from the crowd, but close enough I could hear his grating voice cheering on his daughter.
I asked a fellow coach, an attorney, what we could do. Clearly, this guy made everyone uncomfortable. Being an attorney, this coach said, well, the guy gets his day in court, and there’s nothing we can do. I glumly accepted he was right, but I also warned him that we shouldn’t be surprised if parents object when he showed up. (Surprisingly, to me, no one registered any sort of formal complaint.)
Now my former neighbor is in jail, serving a two-year sentence. It’s a breath of fresh air, really — at least I know where he is and most importantly, where he isn’t. Both my daughter and her friend still play softball — different teams now, but still the same league. So what happens when he’s released?
I know he’ll be on an offender list. But while I know he’s served his time and probably won’t do anything with parents about, I personally can’t stand the thought of seeing him at games. In particular, I can’t stand to think about what perverted thoughts are going to be on his mind as he watches kids play. Maybe he’ll be rehabbed, but the recidivism rate is high in this sort of crime. I’d be more than happy if there were invisible fencing around every field, and that this guy wore a collar and got his neck zapped if he ever stepped too close.
I guess that’s why we have laws and courts and such — to balance our baser instincts with fairness and sanity. I can understand completely why Jeffersonville isn’t happy to see Eric Dowdell show up for a ballgame. I also can understand why the courts say he can. The whole thing turns my stomach in knots.
A Minnesota soccer coach, on his blog, says he was clear from last fall on: if his 12-and-under girls’ soccer somehow pulled off the miracle of looking like it would beat an affiliated, elite 13-and-under team in tournament competition, he would, in his words, “probably find a way for the 13s to go through over our team.”
And, by god, that’s exactly what happened. And now Mark Abboud, a former pro player, is out of a job as technical director of the elite Minnesota Thunder Academy program and is busy working as the latest youth sports morality play.
The academy, which runs recreational and elite programs, tossed out Abboud, fined him $600 (to be paid to charity) and only kept him on as a 12s coach for the rest of the season by the grace of the girls, for an incident May 17.
Abboud slowly and painfully recounts the day in his season blog, giving both the reader and Abboud himself the imagery of seeing a car wreck before it happens, yet not being able to avoid it.
Abboud’s team of 12s, as he recounts, was basically in a state cup tournament for the experience. In past years, Abboud had seen a predecessor team to the Thunder, a team he coached, lose to a younger squad, then get smacked in the state tournament. He didn’t feel it was valuable to younger girls to get clobbered, nor did he believe it was best for the program for that to happen. No one objected when he put that idea forth — after all, what are the odds?
So game day comes when Abboud’s team faces the Thunder’s elite 13-year-olds, and he tells his girls to go out and play hard. He even switches up his offensive and defensive set to improve his girls’ chances. In a tribute to Abboud’s skills, it works — too well. “My thoughts were a-whirl,” Abboud wrote May 18. “The 13s are a better team overall than we were. They would do our club proud at Regionals if they got past either the White team or EP (game was to be played after ours). It would be better for the club and for MN to have them represent the state at the Midwest Region Championships. We were here for the experience. I was silently cheering for the 13s to score a goal.”
The game is tied at 1 at the end of regulation. And at the end of two overtimes. Time for penalty kicks.
And Abboud makes good on his vow. He instructs his girls to kick slowly to the 13s goalie. Apparently the 12s didn’t get the message, because they reportedly were sobbing at the news. (I understand — I worked at a magazine where we were told by the publisher no matter how well we did, the focus always would be on making the sister magazine we spun out thrive, with us left to die. I found a new job not too long after that inspiring pep talk.)
Abboud, in his own words, immediately regretted his presumably well-reasoned, well-thought out decision.
What did I just do? I took the decision out of the girls’ hands and dictated a controllable ending to a match against the spirit of competition and of the game itself. Albeit I still stand behind the rationale used in this case, I’m thinking again it was not the right way to deal with the situation. It would have been helpful to have a club coach or director around to bounce this idea off of prior to acting it out.
The look of disappointment and betrayal that some of them held in their eyes was crushing to me. I was so frustrated with the whole thing that I accidentally said “Some of you are going to be poutty and b-i-t-c-h-y to me because of this, but I hope you understand my thought process.” I’ve never used that language with a youth team before, though I’m sure they’ve heard far worse. The b-word broke the ice, eliciting chuckles from almost every girl, but I still regretted the slip. And regret was already building about other things.
Though many other MTA coaches and directors were supportive later that afternoon to my face, we’ll see what the next days bring. I thought it was the right decision to make at the time (and for the entire last year), I take full responsibility for any repercussions, and through this writing that is always insightful and constructive to me, I’m starting to regret the choice.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune did a story on Abboud’s Sophie’s Choice that didn’t shy away from what Abboud did, but was pretty sympathetic, though the 132 reader comments (as of this writing) are, uh, not.
I’ll say this first: Abboud must be pretty well-liked for his 12s to accept him after being shafted, so much so that they begged the Thunder to let him stay on as coach. But not to pile on to Abboud’s self-flagellation, that was a dumb decision. Especially dumb because he had so much time to think about it. He decided last fall this would happen? Did he run this by his board of directors? Maybe the parents or others didn’t object, because they probably didn’t think anything of it — until it became reality.
It’s funny that while the usual complaints about youth sports is coach’s win-at-all-costs attitude, Abboud gets slammed for losing on purpose. But the idea is to try. If the 13s can’t beat the 12s, that’s their problem. You can’t decide they would do better later, that they’re having an off day, so you have to game the results for them. Abboud was trying to help, but like my wife says when I throw her delicates in the dryer, you’re not helping.
I know, from reading his blog, that Abboud knows all that. However, I would lose my license as a sports pundit if I didn’t same something. (And Coach Abboud, feel free to contact me if you wish to speak further about this.)
By the way, the Thunder isn’t the only one handing out punishment over this. Inside Minnesota Soccer reported June 1 that the Minnesota Youth Soccer Youth Association not only banned Abboud from coaching in state cup competition through 2010, but they handed the same sanction to the 13s coach, Andy Kassa, as well. (Apparently there was evidence Abboud tipped off Kassa to what he was doing.) The 13s also were booted out of state competition — so much for getting the better team ahead.
Abboud wrote in his blog — not updated since May 21 — that he figured some punishment would be coming down. After all, it doesn’t matter if you’re shaving points because you’re in cahoots with gamblers or shaving points because you think you’re helping your club — even in no-score leagues, people don’t take kindly to coaches who tell their players to stop trying.
If Jodi Scheffler, the Kirkland, Wash., Little League mom facing criminal charges for allegedly attacking a 12-year-old Little League player she said was taunting her son, has any hope, it’s what happened in a New Brunswick, N.J., courtroom on Friday. Not that Washington courts pay New Jersey courts any legal mind, but at least it shows you can attack someone who did wrong to your child and not have it blotch your permanent record, at least in the non-Internet world.
Former wrestling coach Phillip Sandford, following a mistrial, pleaded guilty to charges he assaulted a wrestler he believed was unduly beating up his son. (The clip is here.) If Sandford undergoes anger management, stays away from Sayreville wrestling matches for two years (Sayreville being the hometown of the wrestler he tackled) and doesn’t coach youth sports for that same period, there will be no record of his conviction or sentence.
Maybe if things aren’t looking so good for Scheffler, she can get herself one of those deals. Though I’m not sure it helps that some of her friends wore “Team Jodi” T-shirts for a recent game, the first against the team featuring the player she was alleged to have hit.
It’s a shame that Max Gilpin, the 15-year-old who died after a football practice last August in Louisville, Ky., is growing more and more of a footnote in the aftermath of his demise. But that’s how it goes when stuff like this happens.
From the Louisville Courier-Journal:
A Bullitt County circuit judge this morning [Tuesday] issued a domestic violence order against Jeffery Dean Gilpin, the father of the Pleasure Ridge Park football player who died after he collapsed at a practice.
During a court hearing, Gilpin’s wife, Lois Louise Gilpin, alleged that her husband had been abusive in the past and had recently threatened harm if she did anything to “dishonor” her stepson, Max Gilpin, who died at a practice on Aug. 23.
Jeff Gilpin, represented by attorneys, denied the allegations.
Nevertheless, Judge Elise Spainhour told Jeff Gilpin to avoid all contact with his wife and to enter anger counseling, along with grief counseling. The pair plan to divorce, they said.
“I’m very sorry you lost your child,” Spainhour told Jeff Gilpin. “You need to try to salvage your life. You don’t want to live in a sea of anger.”
Gilpin already has one ex-wife: Max’s mother, who is joining him in filing a civil lawsuit against former coach David Jason Stinson, as well as other coaches and the Louisville school district. They filed on the basis of wrongful death, saying Stinson denied water to players and pushed them too hard on a day when the heat index reached 94 degrees.
But what really made Max Gilpin’s case stand out is that Stinson is facing an August court date after a grand jury indicted him on reckless homicide charges as a result of the player’s death.
Presumably, Jeff Gilpin’s home life shouldn’ t have anything to do with Stinson’s guilt or innocence. But for sure Stinson’s lawyers will be poring through his divorce filings (if they haven’t already) looking for anything they can use. Already, Jeff Gilpin did them a favor during his civil trial deposition by saying he wasn’t sure that Stinson denied anyone water — a key fact on which the civil and criminal cases turn.
Stinson’s attorneys are going to be especially aggressive not only because they have a client to defend, but also because they know (thanks to the contributions they’re receiving from coaches nationwide) that Stinson’s guilt or innocence is going to have a profound effect on coaches’ authority. Especially their authority to inflict physical punishment like “gassers,” the sprint drills Stinson was alleged to have his players run because of a perceived lack of hustle, a coaching technique as old as coaching itself. With that at stake, and with his father’s personal foibles coming into the spotlight, it’s unfortunate Max Gilpin himself is more and more of an afterthought and symbol than a boy who died tragically.
Millsap, Texas, population 350, was looking at possibly having to shake $20 out of every man, woman and child to pay for the $7,000 theft of equipment from Millsap Youth Athletics. That is, until a talk radio station two counties to the east, in Dallas, took up their cause, what with their good heart and so much time on the air being freed up since Terrell Owens left town.
Um, that’s Millsap, not Milsap.
The folks at ESPN 103.3 raised $3,000 on the air through bids on a sports ticket package until an anonymous listener called in, off the air, to pledge $5,000.
From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
[Millsap Youth Athletics secretary Rita] Switzer was profoundly grateful.
“Whoever this anonymous donor is, I love you, I love you, I love you,” she said.
Switzer said smaller donations have come from residents across North Texas, both pledged on the telephone and sent through the mail.
Switzer said the community’s response to the theft is teaching the children about the good in people and how positive things can come out of bad.
“Before every meeting we have, the first thing we do is we pray. We pray for God to watch over the kids and for him to allow us to be the best we can be,” she said. “I feel this is an answer to those prayers.”
I was just crying the whole time I was listening. They talked that story up like we were big-leaguers.”
Millsap isn’t the only youth sports organization to get a helping hand in a crisis wrought by theft. The Blue Island (Ill.) Little League has shaken a lot of helping hands after it lost $3,000 in food and equipment in a concession stand burglary. One man gave the whole kaboodle. The Chicago White Sox kicked in $500 and free tickets for the players. Other parents and other leagues kicked in some money, as well.
It’s nice to know that in a crisis, you can find friends in unexpected places. Especially if you can get the word out. Seriously leagues — if you suffer a sudden loss, let the world know so someone can help.
You might remember in 2000 how Michael Costin Sr. died after being beaten by fellow hockey dad Thomas Junta, upset that someone elbowed his son in a practice Coston supervised at a rink in Reading, Mass. It remains one of the most notorious cases of sports parents run amok. Junta is still in jail on his involuntary manslaughter conviction, his parole denied for a second time, in 2008.
Also in jail: one of attack’s witnesses, Michael Costin Jr.
…after the case was over and the attention faded away, Michael Costin Jr.’s life spiraled into drug and alcohol abuse and violence, court records show.
[Monday], Costin, now 20, was sent to Middleton Jail for 18 months, after pleading guilty to beating up his 43-year-old girlfriend and stealing her car two days before Christmas.
Prosecutor Michelle DeCourcey said Salem police were called to a Leach Street apartment on the afternoon of Dec. 23 by Costin’s girlfriend, who said he had grabbed her by the throat, punched her in the face and told her, “You’re going to die tonight.”
The above photo is Michael Costin Jr. testifying during Junta’s 2002 trial. The Gloucester Times went into more detail about how he frequently has ended up in court again, but as a defendent.
Costin has already served time for assaulting the same woman and has racked up a multipage record in the past three years.
Judge Richard Mori [who has heard other cases involving Costin] said Costin has received a lot of support, including requests for leniency from police officers familiar with his family history.
Costin’s lawyer, James Craig, urged the judge to give his client another shot at probation, suggesting a brief jail term and then strict supervision by a probation officer. He even noted that the victim in the case has offered to take Costin back in when he is released, though he added that Costin no longer wants to be involved with the woman.
But the judge said Costin has failed to take part in programs offered by the probation department in some of his prior cases to help him deal with some of his issues, including a serious substance abuse problem and mental health problems that may stem from the death of his father.
“I’m really sorry about the thing with your father, but you’ve got to grow up,” Mori told him. “It’s got to stop. You just can’t do this anymore.”
At Junta’s trial, Costin Jr. told the court: “I saw Thomas Junta beating my dad into the ground. For the rest of that day and for the next day, my heart was in my throat. Please teach Thomas Junta a lesson: Let the world know that a person can’t do what Thomas Junta did to my dad, to my family and to me … we all want Thomas Junta to go to prison for as long as your honor can put him there.”
So is Michael Costin Jr. in this downward spiral because of his witnessing the beating death of his father?
I’ll leave that to the mental health professionals. But I will make one guess: it didn’t help. Neither did not having his father as he entered his teenage years. (I don’t know whether Michael was the son who reportedly climbed into the casket with his father during his wake.)
I’ll make another guess — the roots of the younger Costin’s criminal behavior are deep. His father, an unemployed handyman, had numerous convictions, including weapons possession and assaulting a police officer. The younger Costin’s grandfather fatally stabbed his uncle when he was 17 and was convicted of manslaughter. Costin, an unemployed handyman, had a record of convictions on charges including weapons possession and assaulting a police officer.
The grandfather also told NBC’s “Today” in 2000 that his son, Michael’s dad, had a drinking problem that ran in the family.
Michael Costin Jr., for whatever reason, is fulfilling a family tradition — no happy endings.
In writing the other day about Jodi Scheffler, the Kirkland, Wash., mom facing criminal charges for allegedly attacking a 12-year-old Little League player she said was taunting her son, I gave the unsolicited advice that you never, never, never, never, never, ever, ever, ever as a parent/adult take conflicts between kids into your own hands. Give or take a never or ever.
Alas, that advice came way too late for Phillip Sandford. In 2007, the 46-year-old rec league wrestling coach from Old Bridge, N.J., decided he had to step in after seeing an opposing wrestler throw a punch at his charge, who also happened to be Sandford’s son.
Here is a video of the incident, shot by the opposing team from Sayreville, N.J.
The tape shows the wrestlers falling outside the circle, the referee blowing the whistle, and Sandford appearing out of nowhere to tackle the opposing wrestler.
Except that Sandford claims he wasn’t tackling — he tripped and fell. And he ran out there because the opposing wrestler was throwing punches. You can’t see that on the video, though the wrestlers are out of camera range when the alleged punches were thrown.
Unlike Scheffler, Sandford was a coach — I say was because he wasn’t anymore after that tackle/trip-and-fall. So he had some right to be there. But, again, while it’s admirable Sandford wants to protect his son, any father, coach or not, should let the referee handle things. That’s what he’s there for. If the referee isn’t handling things to your satisfaction, you’re better to take it up with a league or tournament official after a cooling-off period rather than racing across the wrestling mat, ready to strike.
Like Scheffler, Sandford was hit with a criminal charge. Here’s NJ.com, reporting from Sandford’s trial last week.
Sandford was charged under a relatively new law that elevates a simple assault, normally a disorderly persons offense, to aggravated assault, an indictable offense, if it occurs at a community or sporting event attended by children younger than 16. The charge is a fourth-degree offense.
The jury had to decide whether Sandford meant to hurt Patrick Ronan of Sayreville, who was then 16, when he ran over and grabbed the Ronan, who was wrestling Sandford’s 14-year-old son.
Last Thursday, a jury in New Brunswick, N.J., couldn’t agree on that question, so the judge declared a mistrial. The parties are due back in court May 29.
Stuff like this makes you wonder whether there should be some partition between parents, coaches and players, like the one my 6-year-old son/, his friend/T-ball teammate and I had to stand behind to see the naked mole rats at Brookfield Zoo Friday so we didn’t disturb their newborns.
I don’t even want to think what search string is going to end up disappointing the perverts out there.