Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Chester, the Molestor (I mean, Sex Offender): Out of My Neighborhood!!!

Peter Hong has a moving personal column 1 in today's LAX about a child molestor living on his block in Altadena.

Child molestors are our society's boogeyman; we have a whole fricking proposition written, Proposition 83, with the explicit intent to UPROOT, DEROOT and KICK OUT these corruptors, these contagions to our pure children.

Wong's article speaks for itself:

He captures the fear parents feel:
Miletti lives 850 feet from Farnsworth Park, a sprawling complex of playing fields, courts and a playground frequented by children, including my own. Proposition 83 passed overwhelmingly; several neighbors said they voted for it, expecting that Miletti would be forced out of the neighborhood. Both the attorney general and the proposition's authors say ex-convicts can stay put. But it has yet to be decided whether the restrictions will apply to past sex offenders if they move. A federal judge will take up the matter in February.

More than 30 houses line Miletti's block, and most of them have signs calling for him to leave. One of the homes at the end of the block belongs to Erik Hargrave, 40. He recalled the day he and his wife received the mailer. It came on his daughter's second birthday. His wife, who had recently given birth to their second child, burst into tears.

Hargrave and about a dozen neighbors met at Farnsworth Park's Greek-style amphitheater. There was anxiety over having a sex offender on a block with so many young children. They also discussed the potential effect his presence could have on property values and decided both to post the signs and create an e-mail distribution list.

Another of the anti-Miletti organizers, Joseph Llorens, the father of a 12-year-old boy, lives across the street from Hargrave. A manager for a utility company, Llorens, 44, had actually been a friend of Miletti's wife; he had joined her and her then-husband for Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago.

"I do not want him to harm children in our area," he said. "I cannot protect the whole world; my goal is just to get him out of our area."

Llorens and Hargrave once got into a heated exchange with Miletti over their signs. The two raised their voices in anger, while Miletti remained calm.

Llorens felt Miletti wanted to bait him or Hargrave into hitting him so he could make some kind of claim against them, he said. No blows were struck. Miletti also offered to tell his story, Llorens recalled. "I said I don't even want to know. How can you justify doing that to a 6-year-old?" Llorens told Miletti to go home, which he did.

Then, he captures when society's stigmitizes the "other." Of course, the African-American on the block sees through such prejudice:
Some of those who are most against vilifying Miletti live closest to him.

Wayne Weiss, 58, a documentary filmmaker who lives across the street, said he finds the signs unsightly. He thinks they so dominate the streetscape that the neighborhood could end up defined by them.

"They've got Christmas Tree Lane over there," he said, gesturing across Lake Avenue to the neighborhood famous for its holiday light displays. "Is this going to become Pedophile Lane?"

Hari Nayar, 48, and Ruth Landsberger, 47, who have two children ages 9 and 6, also live across the street. The couple don't know Miletti and his wife, and they don't feel their children are endangered. Sexual abuse typically is inflicted by family members or friends, they believe, as it was in Miletti's case. The state's Megan's Law website confirms their view, noting that 90% of child victims know their abuser, with almost half the offenders being a family member.

As they discussed their views with me, their 6-year-old listened in while their 9-year-old sat nearby reading "How The Grinch Stole Christmas."

The sign campaign "may not be teaching these guys good values," Landsberger said. "It is not teaching tolerance. It's more like vigilantism."

Alex and Jackie Bailey, retirees who live at the opposite end of the block from Miletti, also declined to post signs at their house. "You have to live with people no matter what," said Jackie, 64.

She said that about 30 years ago, a convicted murderer lived in the neighborhood, and his daughter played with their children. "You have to take care to protect your children and watch them. You can't stop kids from playing with each other … we just kept our distance from the parent," she said.

The Baileys were among the neighborhood's first African Americans when they arrived in 1968. Alex, 69, said he sometimes wonders if the campaign against Miletti could descend to "the mentality that in the past caused my people to be lynched and now Arabs to be arrested and abused."

Hargrave said he is aware of such fears and has consulted with the sheriff's station to make sure the anti-Miletti efforts remain lawful. "We are not vigilantes," he said.

Societies reveal their true colors by how they treat the most wretched, the most vulnerable, the neediest. I thought we lived in a Christian country? Didn't Jesus say something about tolerance and love. And isn't California a "Democratic", urr, blue, shouldn't we call it black, state?

I'm not denying the incredible harm done by those who sexually abuse children. They deserve to punished severely. Wong decides to keep his children away from his neighbor. This seems like the sensible thing, the appropriate thing to do.

But, a line is crossed when people's basic civil rights are violated, when society legitimizes the state's power to expell lawfully-abiding citizens from their own home. Our society has crossed this line w/ regularity esp. during our "War On Terror" times (example 2: "detainees" disappear into a "military tribunal" system).

Facists (those Nazis, Southern racists and Hutus/Mutus) would uproot, deroot, then exterminate "others" based on their difference: just it was racial and/or religious. But sexual identity is different. RIGGGHTTTTT. It threatens our kids on MySpace. But, maybe it isn't so BLACK and WHITE. Just ask News flash: Republican Rep. of Florida Mark Foley (I love the source of this link) what it's like to suffer from a splintered sexual identity. But I guess we can't give him any sympathy either.

Sympathy, compassion, tolerance isn't allowed when society justifies by such a wide margin the ostracism of sex offenders. Not in our backyards, our neighborhoods.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You may call the article "moving" but I call it frightening and dismaying. He has put into print a cruel idea to ostracize and banish a group of people who are trying to get on with law abiding lives. If anyone is truly a threat, they are being monitored by a GPS which apparently gives the public a sense, albeit false, of security. I am appalled that the LA Times would even print such a column, and on their front page no less. We are returning to the days of Nazi Germany. How scary is that? Will drunk drivers, murderers, drug dealers be next? Better watch out!

9:11 AM  
Blogger Blue Mandy said...

It is frightening and dismaying, but also poignant. We can at least take note that some of his neighbors, again not surprisingly, those who are progressive and/or minority, refuse to terrorize him.

This is a larger issue. Our Congress just ended the tradition of Habeas Corpus. Check Jeffrey Toobin's "Killing Habeas Corpus" article in the current NYer. Now that's frightening, just our most fundamental protection for basic civil rights, based on common law from the Middle Ages, voluntarily being rejected by Congress at Bush's request. People do need to wake up to freedoms evaporating. It's like the evaporation is so visible it's invisible.

6:42 AM  
Blogger Greg Miletti said...

I am Michael's cousin, Greg, and
I now live in rural New Hampshire.
I grew up with Michael and he
was like a brother to me during
my years in California.
I am not here to condone his
actions re: his daughter Leslie.
Quite the contrary, I find them
reprehensible to say the least.
However, I think he has paid his debts in more ways than prison time
and should be allowed the chance to
get on with his life.
We all make mistakes.
Some of them horrible as was his.
While I appreciate the concern of many of Michael's neigbors, their
actions are bordering on that of
a witch hunt.

Yes, they are concerned about their
children - I can understand that.
I have two kids of my own whom my
wife and I fret over constantly.
But why are the papers profiling only Michael on the front page?
I'm sure there are many others who
deserve equal time for equally if
not more heanous crimes.

Again, I'm not minimizing the impact Michael's actions had
on his family, neighbors, and
freinds back then and now.
IMHO I feel he is repentent and
deserves a chance at happiness.
I think his ghosts have haunted
him long enough.
Unless he has harmed his current
neighbors directly I think it is
time to move on from the New Salem Witch Trails in progress out there.
Just my two cents worth.

Greg Miletti
Stinson Lake, NH

2:10 AM  

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