COMMENTS: Exasperating Compounded by Inflammatory

I have already complained about how exasperating I found Terry Moran's report on ABC on Tuesday about the recidivism of sexual offenders upon release from prison. Well now Ben Tracy enters the same murky waters for CBS. Tracy's starting point was the death of Chelsea King, a 17-year-old who was out jogging near her San Diego home. John Gardner, a 30-year-old ex-con, stands accused of her rape and murder. The scope of Tracy's report, however, went well beyond this case. Like Moran, his sights were on the entire parole system of registries for former sexual offenders released from prison.

Tracy's examples were Philip Garrido, who kidnapped a eleven-year-old girl and held her prisoner for 18 years, and the serial murders of eleven women in Cleveland, discovered last November. In both cases, the accused criminal was listed in a sexual offenders' registry and was under active supervision. Tracy's conclusion: "If convicted, Gardner will now spend the rest of his life behind bars but, some say, if the system were tougher, he would already be there."

Yet it turns out that the criticisms of the "system" that Tracy found in Gardner's case had no parallels whatsoever with Jaycee Dugard or those Cleveland horrors. Tracy explained that Gardner had been sentenced for five years in 2000 for molesting a 13-year-old neighbor. At the time, his psychiatrist had advised a 30-year term because "he was a continued danger to under-age girls in his community." Prosecutors negotiated the shorter plea bargain instead. Upon completion of his sentence he wore a GPS monitoring device for a further three years. And the current case involves a 17-year-old--not the under-age girls that the psychiatrist was worried about.

For Tracy to invoke those other two cases into his coverage of Gardner is simply inflammatory.


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