By TIM KOSNOFF
Those who are willing to ponder the consequences of sex abuse crimes committed by adults against children should have been with me during a recent prison visit in Montana. I was there to interview a potential client. I’ve spent a career in the company of both victims and those accused of crimes. I ask the reader to contemplate just briefly what it can be like meeting with a man convicted of two murders. For privacy reasons, I’ll call him “Robert,” not his real name.
Robert, now 57, has been convicted of two murders: one, on the outside, in 1985; the other in prison 10 years later. I met with him at a privatized institution run (and not particularly impressively) by Corrections Corporation of America. The two of us were accompanied by a flabby, detached prison guard who didn’t look capable of defending himself, let alone both of us.
When I asked Robert to identify the prison victim from the 1995 murder, his tattoo-covered arms, lethal weapons, hung limp at his side. His vacant-looking eyes stayed dead-level as he mumbled: “They said he was my ‘boy.’”
Perhaps the reader can imagine the meaning of “boy” in prison parlance.
In any case, Robert was given the death penalty for the second murder. He spent the next decade on death row. When the conviction was overturned he accepted a “for-your-natural-life” plea.
I went to see Robert to investigate sex crimes he said were committed against him when he was a child while in Montana state supervision. He had clear memories of having been raped by workers known as “house parents” while he — and many others — were consigned to “family homes,” a cruel euphemism for “orphanage,” under the circumstances.
Without getting into the specifics of Robert’s childhood circumstances, perhaps we can at least give him the benefit of the doubt. Had he been brought up in a loving, nurturing home where there was no such thing as the threat of violence and sexual assault, can we at least grant the possibility that he wouldn’t have grown up to become a murderer?
Look at it from the perspective of one of my other clients. He’s been convicted of two violent felonies. He told me that his crimes were to seek random vengeance for how he was sexually hurt as a kid. Why did he actually want to live in prison? It was so he could have bars around him to lessen the chance that he’d be violated by another person.
We have other child-sexual-abuse clients who are behind bars for assaults, drug-related offenses, substance abuse, property crimes, etc. Sometimes we see victims who themselves have gone on to become sexual abusers or, like Robert, some other sort of violent felon.
I’ve come to think that you can draw a straight line from criminal-abuse to criminal consequence, from child-sexual abuse to the public defender’s office and back. When you consider the epidemic that is child sex abuse in this country, you begin to appreciate the societal costs of later crimes committed by those who were once victims.
If this weren’t odious enough, consider:
In Spokane, Kosnoff Fasy attorneys waged a six-year legal battle on behalf of young men sexually abused by Rev. Joseph Weitensteiner at the Morning Star Boys ranch. Some clients were behind bars. This priest ran the ranch for 40 years, lording with impunity over those in his “care.” There is incontrovertible evidence that Weitensteiner, a law unto himself at Morningstar, committed countless rapes during the years.
Yet, during a civil trial, a jury actually ruled in favor of the defendant. Why? Because, as a means of minimizing plaintiffs’ credibility, defense attorney’s cited criminal histories and records of incarceration accrued by the victims during the years after they’d been abused.
Such poses a bitter irony. Under the circumstances, appreciation of the irony no doubt will escape Robert and so many other victims-turned-criminals.
If someone you know needs help, you can contact us:
Our attorneys are highly experienced in childhood sexual abuse law and offer free initial consultations to potential clients. We are also willing to assist other attorneys in sexual abuse cases. Please call 206-257-3590, or email us directly. Conversations will be kept confidential, and even if you are unsure about a lawsuit, often we can direct you to the assistance you need. You will be treated with compassion and respect.
Toll free: 855-529-4274
Tim Kosnoff, direct: 425-837-9690
Dan Fasy, direct: 206-462-4338
Kosnoff Fasy, Seattle office: 206-257-3590