I can't always predict how a story will be received, and a recent posting we reprinted from a Muskego Police Department weekly neighborhood watch newsletter brought up some interesting debate.
Some wanted to out the person responsible for sending a message to a 14 year old boy, which relayed sympathy to the loss of the boy's grandfather. As it turns out, the man responsible outed himself, in response to what he felt was taken out of context. (The comment was withdrawn.)
While Jon Heil did not have to step forward, he did, and he is indeed a blogger on Patch, for technology issues like Windows upgrades and various products on the market to aid in making your PC better.
He talked with us and admitted he was charged in 2004 for having two photos on his computer, sent to him from what was supposed to be a juvenile, and also had responded to IMs sent from a boy, which turned out to be law enforcement. Heil maintains that he initially deleted comments because he felt they weren't appropriate, but when they persisted, decided to 'play along.' Horrible decision.
Since 2004, Heil has not committed any similar acts, which for five of those years afterward, law enforcement can monitor as they see fit. The contact was not random - he knew the family, and the decedent, well.
At the time we posted the article, we would not pursue identities as is protocol for ANY case where a suspect is not charged. In addition, had someone been charged, we also have to weigh whether revealing the identity of a suspect will also reveal the complainants.
I know this doesn't sit well with many, but it's the world we live in, and the laws we operate under. The intent of the release and our article was to underline a larger point: know who your kids know.
I don't plan on pulling a blog that has not crossed any ethical lines, and has provided helpful tips on computer maintenance.
I do plan on continuing to talk with my daughter about what's out there in the world and on line, as the article was asking us all to do. I recently went down her list of friends on Facebook, and if she couldn't instantly identify them and where she knew them from, they were out. Happily, she scored perfectly, even with her numbers in the hundreds. Few were adults, and if they were, I knew them as well.
If there are concerns about what anyone on the sex offender registry can and can't do, it would require a law change. In addition, the registry also includes people who slept with an underage boyfriend or girlfriend, and are now married and have children with that same person. I'm not saying this is the case here, but as it stands, changing the law will also have unintended consequences.
This is a good debate to have, and I hope people take a closer look at what the law's implications are. I'm often torn in the cases where there has been no reoffense at what punishment is enough, and for how long. Should people not be allowed to operate a business, or function in any capacity within a community...ever?
Again, I'm a parent. The answers aren't easy, and I get the outrage. I am also a believer in controlling what you can, under the law. And as one reader said to me "it's always the threat you don't see that's the worst."