Monday, September 17, 2007

Federal prosecutor, child predator?

What happens if you cross the U.S. Attorneys scandal with Dateline: To Catch a Predator? WDIV–TV in Detroit, Michigan, is reporting that John David R. Atchison, an assistant U.S. attorney for the northern district of Florida (roughly, the Florida panhandle), was arrested over the weekend and arraigned this afternoon on charges of soliciting sex with a five-year-old girl — a kindergartener. According to detectives, Atchison contacted an undercover officer posing as her mother and arranged to fly to Detroit to have sex with the girl. He also reportedly responded to the "mother's" concern about physically harming the "daughter" with assurances that "I've done this plenty." Yikes.

My mind balks at the very thought of an adult — in this case, a 53-year-old man — having sex with a child who hasn't even started first grade. Dateline mostly shows people pursuing meetings with girls and boys they believe to be in their teens, or occasionally as young as 12, but not anything close to kindergarten. It's not just a whole different ballgame, it's a whole different league. I can understand seeing a sexy teenager and saying to yourself, in the immortal words of Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) in Talladega Nights, "Please be 18! Please be 18! Please be 18!" But the flip side of that coin is that, if the teen turns out to be under the age of consent, (s)he is strictly "don't touch, don't approach, don't even undress with your eyes." On the other hand, if you look at a five-year-old child and think of having sex with that child, run, do not walk, to the nearest psychiatrist. I'm entirely in favor of the freedom of consenting adults in private to do pretty nearly whatever they want, but a five-year-old is nothing close to a consenting adult.

This guy, though, apparently did much more than think about having sex with a child. He planned in advance, and flew 800 miles, allegedly for a weekend tryst with a child much closer to her diaper days than to her first training bra. Not only that, but the alleged perpetrator is not merely a cop, but a prosecutor. Since he crossed state lines, the crime of which he is accused could carry federal charges, leading to the ever-so-slightly awkward situation of being prosecuted by one of his colleagues.

Since this guy is presumably a Republican, and a member of the Bush Administration, it is tempting to throw a partisan spin on the scandal. However, John David R. Atchison isn't so much a Republican alleged sicko as a plain old alleged sicko. All the same, I expect that Senator Larry "Wide Stance" Craig will be relieved to have a bit less of the spotlight as this new scandal unfolds. Who knows — it might even distract people from the latest charges against O.J.

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