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Lake Merritt, Oakland

July 6th, 2001

10 Years in Jail
There was an interesting story carried on page 4 of the San Francisco Chronicle, yesterday, headlined: 10-year term for obscene journal, about a man in Columbus, Ohio, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail for writing fictitious stories about sexually abusing and torturing children in a journal. By journal I mean a hand written, kept in a bedroom drawer, never intended to be seen by others, journal. Ten years. I assume he was not sentenced on the Fourth of July. Judges are out eating barbecue and giving patriotic speeches about the numbered Amendments on the Fourth of July. Maybe the Third. You can fuck people over without any embarrassing First Amendment analogies on the Third.

Now let's be clear. This guy is a scum bag. He may be a scum bag through genetics or socialization or too much sugar, but he's the real article. That's a given. He's also 22 years old and male, which is probably criminal in and of itself, and on probation for a 1998 pandering conviction involving pornographic photographs of children. He's a bad guy and the stories he wrote involved children that were hidden away in basements in cages. Wretched stuff.

Still, we are adults, and theoretically able to differentiate between acts, some of which are San Francisco Gay Pride Parade clearly criminal, some of which, perhaps less clearly, are not. This guy was given ten years in jail for writing something down on paper in his home. No pictures, no participants, young or otherwise, other than the writer himself. The story quoted a former Ohio American Civil Liberties director: "What you're saying is somebody can't, in essence, confess their fantasy into a personal journal for fear they have socially unacceptable fantasies, then ultimately they end up getting prosecuted." going on to say "he could not recall an obscenity case involving mere words that were not disseminated". Well, yeah. This was evidently heavy stuff, but written down in a personal journal only found because he was on probation for a crime that (properly) allowed the police to search his house.

If this guy is after children, then put him away for going after children. Lots of laws about that, lots of people happy to serve on a jury to send him over. The whole concept of child abuse, sexual or otherwise, is more than a little frightening and if this guy is going out and doing these things, then put him away. But speech is something else. At least I hope speech is something else.

You assume there will be an appeal and an appeal court will look at the purported crime and throw the conviction out. If there is an appeal. If this guy isn't so politically incorrect - I mean children, after all - that no judge will step up to the plate. Page 4 in the Chronicle, about eight column inches. Just another story.

I take some of the things back I said about Netscape. It does display properly when you use Cascading Style sheets, if you don't use underscores in the class names. IE will display "times_11" and Netscape will not. I don't know if you believe me when I say I'm lazy, and I say it a lot, but this should argue for it. How long have I been using style sheets? Months? So I'm redoing my pages and going through the HomeSite tutorial. And maybe the Dreamweaver tutorial. Netscape seems to display type somewhat smaller than IE, but I think I can take care of that with Javascript. Mumble. Something to do, I guess, in my spare time. We all have spare time.

The banner photograph was taken at Lake Merritt in Oakland. The lady on the motorcycle was riding in the San Francisco Gay Pride parade. The quote is attributed to an English professor at Ohio University.