There are two stories involving child sex molestation in today’s paper. The first, on the front page of Section B, starts off, “A Baldwin County jury took about 30 minutes Tuesday to convict a Robertsdale man for repeatedly assaulting two young children.” By the time you finish reading the story, there doesn’t seem to be much doubt that this guy should get life in prison, which it looks like he will.
The second is on the back page of Section B, underneath the weather forecast. “Baldwin County trial opens in child pornography case.” Okay, so we dive into a second story about victimized children, and discover that this guy, Ronald J. McFadden, didn’t actually involve children in his Class A felony. He cut and pasted adult porn images onto ordinary pictures of kids. “On some of the collages, lewd phrases were pasted.”
They were “monitoring” this guy, because he had a 1997 conviction for possession of kiddie porn. A parole officer found the “material he created” in a secret compartment McFadden made behind his kitchen cabinets. I cannot imagine what led to this—do they routinely check parolees’ houses for a closet that’s too shallow, a loose floorboard, a ceiling panel that might be concealing stash? At the time of his conviction, he was sentenced to 5 years’ probation. But he “remained in the Baldwin County Corrections Center until December 2000,” which was how long it took him to find a place “which met the residency standards for a sex offender.” I’m not sure what the 5 years was supposed to limit, since parole officers were still checking him out in 2005, when they found that kitchen cabinet.
The poor bastid does seem to be kinda warped. He pasted adult porn inside the lid of a cigar box (doesn’t say if he used Mod Podge). The box, which was displayed on the witness stand by a Fairhope police sergeant, “contained toys that appeared to be from a child’s meal at a fast food restaurant.” What in the world was that about? But the only kiddie porn he had was in his own mind, because, as his defense lawyer pointed out, “you will not see a camera. You will not see children engaged in sex acts.” Assistant DA Hallie Dixon, however, told the jury that “For him, it wasn’t a matter of free speech because he produced it to be obscene…innocence was transformed, by his production, into obscenity.”
That’s a nice, poetic way to put it, but I really don’t think we should be in the business of arresting people, however effed up, for transforming innocence. Y’all, I am only a naive suburban housewife, but I’m quite sure that as I type this, somewhere in America some guy is jerking off with the pajama page of the Limited Too catalog. Has the innocence of those tween models thus been transformed? Sorry, I don’t believe it has. I’ll go further and say that if my eleven-year-old daughter was offered a Limited Too modeling job, I wouldn’t turn it down because some weirdo might misuse her picture. Maybe that makes me an evil monster too.
You know what? The guy in the front-page story, the one who repeatedly committed unspeakable acts with two eight-year-olds, had no criminal history at all. “Investigators were first called when a parent overheard one of the children talking about the incident.” How did he get to be alone with these kids? Was he related to them? The story doesn’t say.
It’s pretty obvious by now that there are men out there who want to have sex with children. In our horror over this state of affairs, we are headed hysterically down a path whose logical end is random attic-to-cellar house searches similar to drunk-driver road blocks (“If it saves even one child, it’s worth it!”) and citizens calling an 800 number to anonymously report the guy across the street, who, as the neighborhood children splashed and shrieked in the sprinkler, was heard to say, “Aw, lookit her cute lil butt.”
And meanwhile—meanwhile—we bedeck our young daughters in hooker-in-training attire that allows them to display their budding wares for every Mr. Happy Porn Meal out there. Who exactly is transforming innocence here?