Editor's Note: The author is a Tama County Deputy Sheriff.
Letter to the Editor:
There has been much media interest in a case of mine regarding multiple charges of enticing a child filed on an area sex offender who is not required to register in the State of Iowa.
I do not usually comment on these things because I must act in a manner which is in the best interest of the victims in these cases, and also maintain their confidence in me that they can disclose things to me without it ending up in the media.
I am commenting on this case because I would like to see a change in Iowa Law, and to grasp changes that may be needed one needs to assess the circumstances of this incident.
The suspect in this case was able to conduct highly inappropriate activity with children/teenagers in a gray area of Iowa Law. It is not illegal to be inappropriate.
Iowa Law did not require him to register and that should be fixed. This is what is being focused on. However registration is not a cure all.
In this case it was apparent that if we did not act, potential existed for an assault on a child. However no clear assaults as defined by Iowa Law had yet taken place. Hence the "inticing" charges. There is a sexual component to these types of charges that must meet Iowa Code definition of a sexual act. That was the primary difficulty in this case, proving sexual act(s).
Most people are unaware, that an adult can buy your child gifts, give them rides, and involve themselves in your child's life against your wishes to a great degree. Most people think that if such a thing happens, that a law surely exists to control such behavior. It does not. Even if you tell the adult not to buy your child gifts, if they continue to do so law enforcement has no good charge they can file. If there were this suspect would have been arrested last fall for the first complaint. It was easy to prove inappropriate interactions with a minor in this case, but no sexual act as defined by Iowa Code is evident.
I would like to see the Legislature also look at the harassment section of Iowa Code, and see if it is feasible to add language involving adults interactions with children. I would presume that once a parent of the child tells the unwanted, unrelated adult to stop buying gifts for their child, waiting for them by the school, or giving them rides, that some law could be put into place to assure that this happens. As the Code stands at this time, all those things can happen and there is no good charge the police can file. Even a sex offender can do these things if he is not on probation or controlled by the terms of his registration.
To watch grooming taking place and have to wait for someone to be sexually assaulted before action can be taken is unacceptable, and is frustrating for society and law enforcement. One needs to consider that the grooming or courtship conducted by these offenders while not a sex act defined by Iowa Code, can be a very sexual experience for them.
We need a mechanism to stop unwanted attentions to children by adults who are not related to or somehow relevant in the childrens lives.
I for one am very satisfied with the Tama County prosecutor's office who handled this case. The priority was protecting children. Would we like a perfect case? Of course. This suspect is very adept at thriving in the gray area between inappropriate and illegal. He has been well schooled on how not to cross the line, but insists on standing directly on the line keeping children at arms reach.
I am proud of my County Attorney for not allowing that to happen, and for driving a protective wedge between potential danger and the children of Tama County. It takes guts to stand for whats right when you are short of ammunition.