April 15, 2011

"Cruel and unusual": Sex offender seeks refuge in Canada

The autobiographical romance "Summer Of '42" depicts a coming-of-age relationship between 15-year-old Hermie and an older married woman. By the time "Dorothy" vanishes from his Nantucket vacation community, Hermie has matured from boy to man.

How much has changed in the 40 years since that movie was made. Today, rather than disappearing for parts unknown, Dorothy would be shackled and riding the bus to the nearest women's penitentiary.

But is it fair to sentence a woman to 30 years in prison for a consensual relationship with a willing teenage boy?

That is the question confronting Canadian authorities in the case of a Florida woman who is seeking refugee status in Saskatchewan. Denise Harvey fled the United States with her husband after she was sentenced to a 30-year prison term for a consensual relationship with her son's 16-year-old friend.

Denise Harvey (photo credit TC Palm)

In Canada, the age of consent is 16 so her conduct would not have been criminal. Saskatchewan authorities have not extradited Harvey because Canada does not extradite people unless the conduct is a crime in both countries. In appealing to the Canadian government for refugee status, Harvey claims her sentence amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, forbidden by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

More than 10 percent of the residents of her home community of Vero Beach, Florida agree that her sentence was too extreme. They signed a petition demanding that Florida's governor pardon her.

"She didn’t get any justice down here," said petition sponsor George Sigler, a flight trainer. "She's a nice, soft-spoken woman who I believe made a mistake but that doesn't mean she should go to jail for 30 years. No one in their right mind believes a 16-year-old wasn't a willing participant."

Harvey rejected an 11-year plea bargain offer and went to trial. The teen testified that the two flirted and had a long kiss in a car before engaging in brief sexual interludes at his home and elsewhere. Harvey did not testify, but her attorney told jurors the boy stalked her after she rejected his advances. The jury heard a 20-minute recording surreptitiously recorded by police with the boy's cooperation, in which the two discussed what to do if their sexual encounters were disclosed.

After Harvey's conviction on five counts, prosecutors urged the lengthy sentence because she continued to deny wrongdoing. She fled after losing her appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.

With the case now making international headlines, the question becomes whether this is the most sensible face for a world leader to portray to the rest of the world.

The Toronto Star and the Treasure Coast Palm have additional news coverage. 

1 comment:

suetiggers said...

This is the state of these atrocious sex offender laws. MOST of the people on the registry are NOT dangerous, and esp. not to pre-pubescent children. Yet, the combination of the hysteria over a small number of terrible abductions and murders of very young children, these laws came about. The hysteria whipped up by the media, esp. Faux (drama-drama-drama), overly zealous prosecutors and unscrupulous politicians using them for their own gain gave us this state of affairs.
Most people on the for your viewing pleasure registry are suffering by loss of jobs, places to live and families. And a lot of their families are in turn also suffering ..children being targeted and bullied, mothers and wives having to move...they are all the new pariahs..it's been a witch hunt (see Sean Penn's film by that name).. But who cares? Few, it seems.
If you do, go to Reform Sex Offender Laws.com and help