This story found its way to my inbox during the past few days. It is another example of a young man's promise destrpyed by a criminal justice system gripped by hysteria.
John's Story: A Marine No More
"An act of kindness, naiveté, and poor judgment nearly destroyed the life of a Marine. There are over 675,000 Registered Sex Offenders in the United States and not finding a public restroom has landed a young man on the registry.
"John grew up in a military family and always wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps. Like his father, he wanted to serve his country with pride and dedication. Immediately after graduating high school, he went off to the Marines and like most enlistees he struggled to complete boot camp, but each day he reminded himself that this was his childhood dream and that failure was not an option.
"After successfully completing the basic training and enjoying a brief moment of euphoria, John learned that his dad was diagnosed with cancer. His dad had withheld this secret for months, so that John could concentrate on completing his military training. Subsequently, the young soldier was granted a leave to spend some time back home celebrating his dad’s birthday.
"He was so elated about being a Marine at the young age of 20 and was equally proud to return home and visit with family and friends. He spoke to strangers and offered people rides, if they were willing. To us city folks, this kind of behavior seems suspect and alarming, this wasn’t anything unusual for John because of his extroverted and social nature. Yes, there are still people in rural and small town America that still speak to strangers, wave, and offer unsolicited assistance. – Damn these kind folks.
"September 11, 2001 was a memorable and emotionally disturbing day for all Americans and John received a notice that he would need to shorten his leave and return back to the military base.
"Four days later, John was waiting for a friend to meet him at a local park and he decided to run a few laps to get back in military shape. While jogging, his bladder was about to betray him, so he made for a beeline towards a patch of trees. After relieving himself, he then resumed jogging around the park.
"As he was about to drive off, he offered some teenagers a ride. They passed up on his offer and he drove off to visit family.
"It is now September 17, 2001 and John is pulled over by two police officers. They escort him back to the police station and began to question him about the day he was in the park. He was puzzled by their questioning but was fully cooperative. The police informed him that he will need to stay around the station to speak with a detective and hours later the detective informed him that he was being charged with three counts of Attempted Child Abduction....
"As a result of his arrest, John was discharged from his military duties. His career as a Marine was abruptly cut short. He began to battle with depression and thoughts of suicide because he felt that he had let his family, community, and his country down. Fortunately, he sought psychological treatment by a well-respected local psychiatrist who attributed John’s mental decline to his legal troubles. Not only was he struggling mentally but later he was diagnosed with shingles, acute colitis, proctitis with chronic diarrhea & abdominal pain.
"But John did not want to give up on his life so he found a job and returned to college, while hoping that this nightmare would come to an end. He was described by friends, family, and psychiatrists as naïve, and it was very apparent throughout the legal process. Mistakenly, he believed that someone would recognize that this was all a mistake and would rectify the situation. But that day never came.
"Repeatedly he was worried if he would have to register as a sex offender and was told by his attorney that he would not. At the advice of his attorney he accepted a plea deal of 18 months on probation. To his surprise, his probation officer told him that he had to register as a sex offender. Seeking to withdraw his plea, he found a new attorney and was told that it is best for him not to withdraw the plea because that was as good of a plea that he would expect to receive – and there was a chance that he could get some prison time if he went back before the judge.
"Years have passed and John began dating a divorcee. He was in school full-time and worked part-time. He told the police that occasionally he would spend the evening with his girlfriend. Well days later the police arrested him for Failure to Register a New Address. Again the Justice system got it wrong! He had no change of clothes at his girlfriend’s house and all of his belongings were still in the home of his mom (where he was registered. After paying more money on attorney fees, the latest criminal charge was dismissed.
"John struggles today. He is a student, but a marked man. He has written letters to the governor of his state asking for a pardon so that he can return to the military and live-out his childhood dream. He wants to defend America during this time of war. As John says, “No Marine wants to go war, but no warrior wants to be left behind.” For Achilles, it was an arrow in the foot that defeated him, but for John it was a false accusation in a biased courtroom."