Arrested for Crimes They Didn’t Commit. Yet
Ever wondered exactly where the line lies between activities that can’t get you arrested and activities that can? If so, you’re not alone. Two recent incidents have raised the question of what constitutes criminal behavior in the eyes of police officers and judges.
In California, according to LoomisNews.com, 49-year-old Victor Emmer was arrested on suspicion of “loitering where children gather.” So what behavior caused law enforcement officials to charge Emmer with this bizarre crime? Apparently, he approached and spoke with one mother’s children too many times.
Sources indicate that a mother noticed Emmer at three separate children’s story events, and that he interacted with her children on each occasion. Evidently, Emmer’s behavior “creeped out” the mother, so she reported him to the police. They then reportedly arrested Emmer at his home.
Emmer was held on relatively low bail, but investigators working on the case allegedly requested that the judge increase the amount. According to LoomisNews.com, Emmer’s bail was raised to $100,000. He’s reportedly not in custody at this time.
Reports indicate that Emmer is not a registered sex offender, nor does he have any criminal record. His arrest has been criticized by some as unnecessary and in violation of his constitutional right to protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
And even the sheriff reportedly noted that the charges against Emmer are unusual, typically reserved for people found on school grounds or in neighborhoods.
But sex crimes, especially when children are involved, can be a touchy subject. It’s difficult to imagine, for example, an arrest for someone who suspiciously examined – but never actually stole or damaged – CDs or electronic equipment.
In Ohio, an entirely different incident raised a similar question.
Ohio.com reports that William Bartrum, 41, was convicted in 2006 of compelling prostitution after agreeing to pay $500 for a sexual encounter with a woman and her 11-year-old daughter. But an appeals court reportedly reversed that decision a year later, because neither the woman nor her daughter actually existed.
Evidently, Bartrum learned of the mythical mother and daughter from a prostitute who also worked as a police informant. The Ohio Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision that, since the state’s prostitution law does not outline any restrictions on arrangements with a supposed minor, no crime was committed, according to sources.
But the dissenting judge allegedly pointed to text messages exchanged between Bartrum and the first prostitute as evidence that his intent was to commit a very serious crime. Though Bartrum opted not to show up at the arranged meeting place – it seems he “smelled a rat” – police arrested and charged him.
The case is now set to go to the Ohio Supreme Court, which evidently agreed this week to hear a second appeal.
Again, the criminal justice system runs into ambiguity and confusion when sex crimes are involved. These two incidents reflect a growing national trend toward singling out sex offenders as uniquely dangerous criminals. Restrictions on permitted living areas, constant GPS tracking and publicly-accessible databases are only some of the initiatives introduced by lawmakers to offer their constituents “protection” from sex offenders.
Let it be noted that no such restrictions are generally placed on other violent felons when released from prison.