Now, before we get into the rather serious offerin that Mr. Max Newport has for us today, Miss Vero wants to remind y'all about the Love Doctors toy drive tomorrow. Our own favorite Dr. John will be in attendance and we hope y'all will be there too. They'll be broadcasting live from 10am till 10pm, so get yourselves over to Waldo's and make a donation!
Any amount of money would be great, the money buys more toys because they can buy toys at a discount, everyone volunteers so all the money goes to buyin toys, and all the toys are for local children. Even though Miss Vero is not a frequent listener of this particular radio station, we do know that this is a cause worth supporting, so we'll be out there and maybe we'll see y'all!
The topic that our friend Max has chosen to bring up, is one that we've talked about previously, back in October. We actually took the time to go and meet with Mr. George Sigler, because we were interested in someone who spent the time and money to voice their opposition to a legal sentence, in the form of a paid opinion section in the Press Journal.
Now, Max is more than probably right on the legal technicalities, but Miss Vero tends to agree with Mr. Sigler - that the punishment was a bit harsh, especially when we've seen and heard of more serious crimes receiving less punishment. We suppose it's a matter of opinion, especially the Judges. Of course, the best advice we can give y'all is to not do anything so stoopid to get yourselves in a mess like that to begin with! But as we all know, try as you may, you can't legislate morality and as our Granmamie used to say - "That there stank was made long before anyone caught wind of it" - meaning, we think all of those involved had issues way before the crime was ever committed.
Every Form of Refuge Has Its Price
Denise Harvey. There I said it. The name that is guaranteed to stir controversy and at least a dozen or more comments if printed on TCPalm. There was a little research done for this article. Max does have a few friends who are attorneys, who work on both sides of the criminal justice system and spent some quality time talking with them to try to gain a little perspective on the legal ramifications that surround this case and yes, I took notes.
For those of you who are not familiar with the case, Ms. Harvey was convicted by a jury this past summer of five counts of having unlawful sexual activity with a minor. Each of the charges carried a maximum of 15 years in prison for a total of 75 years. She received a 30 year sentence on August 28th imposed by Circuit Judge Dan Vaughn which was the minimum legal sentence under the Florida Sentencing Guidelines, which the judge must follow unless there is a legally valid reason to go below the minimum sentence. Judge Vaughn found there was no valid reason for a downward departure and rightfully imposed the minimum legal sentence. Ms. Harvey is currently appealing her case to the Fourth District Court of Appeals and is out on bond pending their ruling.
This has caused a flurry of outrage in the form of angry letters to the editor and a petition drive started by a gentleman named George Sigler which claims over 1200 signatures complaining about the unjust sentence imposed on this defendant. The source of his motivation is unclear and since I don’t know, I will not speculate. What is clear is that those opposed to this sentence are looking for a double standard of justice to contrast between male and female victims of sexual abuse. There is no such distinction nor should there be.
The supporters of Denise Harvey claim the victim in this case, was lucky to have been seduced by the 38 year old mother of his close friend, who was a self-described MILF on her Myspace webpage. (If you don’t know what a MILF is, for God’s sake don’t Google it . . . you will forever contaminate your computer . . . just trust me that the first word is mother and the last word is the proverbial “f-bomb”). Max has always been attracted to females of my own age. When I was 16, my girlfriend was 16 and the concept of having sex with a mother of one of my best friends was just one thing on a long list of things I had never considered. It’s not that my friend’s mothers were not attractive; they were. As an adult, looking back, if a friend’s mom had attempted to seduce me, it would have been traumatic in so many ways. How would I deal with my friend, my parents, my girlfriend? How would my parents react to a fellow parent of a 16 year old they had trusted enough to be in the company of their child?
Why should it be different that the victim is male? Is there any evidence to indicate that 16 year old girls enjoy sex any less? So why is a 16 year old boy “lucky” to be seduced and a 16 year old girl “victimized”? Why did Roman Polanski not come back to the United States to attend the Academy Awards a few years ago?
Those who are complaining about this 30 year sentence need to go back to the basics. Why do we need a system of justice to begin with? Should George Sigler take the bench and decide what the sentence should be? How about letting the parents of the victim decide the sentence? Maybe Judge Vaughn should have asked for a Press Journal poll? Other Harvey supporters claim that other MILF offenders who were convicted received a much lesser sentence. Shouldn’t we strive for a justice system that treats each case on an individual basis? And despite what many consider an overly harsh sentence, she did receive the benefit of what has been designed as a uniform system of justice.
Based upon my legal advisors, the Florida Sentencing Guidelines were created so that equal justice would be meted out throughout the state. Prior to the enactment of the guidelines in the 1980’s criminal punishment was very inconsistent depending on where the conviction occurred. Without a minimum sentence, a person in Gilchrist County could get a 15 year sentence and a person would get probation in Dade County on the same crime. The guidelines are based on a scoresheet where points are added based upon the seriousness of the crime, the number of the crimes, victim injury or sexual contact, any prior record and other various components so that a point total is reached. For some reason 28 points is deducted from the point total and that number is multiplied by .75 to reach the legal minimum number of months a criminal must spend in prison. Denise Harvey was convicted of five offenses each involving sexual contact. Based upon that formula, which is used in all felony cases, Ms. Harvey scored to a minimum sentence of 30 years. The judge can legally impose a lesser sentence based upon mitigating circumstances which are articulated by the Florida Supreme Court. None of these applied in the Harvey case.
By happenstance, Max was in the courtroom the day Denise Harvey was sentenced. I was there to comfort an old friend who was feeling down; totally unrelated to the Harvey case. You would never know it by reading the Press Journal, but there were dozens of criminal sentencings that afternoon. Elliott Jones, who I respect as a reporter, bolted with his photographer right after her sentencing as if he had to actually scoop any other reporter in the courtroom (there were none). It’s too bad Elliott didn’t stick around because the guy right after Harvey was sentenced to life without parole for a crime involving a teenaged girl, but for some reason that didn’t make the news so you can’t read about that one.
From my perspective, I saw an unrepentant, almost defiant, defendant who refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing. The prosecutors pointed out that she had told the victim during a taped conversation to keep his mouth shut or she could get in a lot of trouble. There is no doubt that Denise Harvey knew she had committed criminal acts. Her defense attorney tried to argue a mitigating factor that “the victim was an initiator, willing participant, aggressor, or provoker of the incident.” The judge pointed out that since the purpose of the law is to protect minors; the minor is not capable of giving consent to the crime. Therefore he cannot be a “willing participant” to a law that was designed to protect him. Based upon what I heard in court, any sentence lower than the 30 years imposed would have constituted an illegal sentence.
After talking with my lawyer friends, they expect the Fourth District Court of Appeals to affirm the sentence since it is a legal sentence. The judge could have imposed a sentence of 75 years and the appellate court could not overturn it. They can only reverse an illegal sentence. The law allows the defendant 60 days after the ruling of the appellate court to file a motion to mitigate the sentence. By that time Judge Vaughn will be back on the bench in Fort Pierce and Judge Robert Hawley will assume Vaughn’s prior docket. My friends claim that Judge Hawley has a reputation as being quite lenient on the criminal bench, but if he follows the law he will be bound to impose the legal minimum sentence imposed by Vaughn. If he imposes anything less than a legal sentence, the state can then appeal the imposition of an illegal sentence.
What Denise Harvey did was wrong. She was caught dead to rights and her defiant attitude surely is not working in her favor. As the parent of three, I trust the parents of my children’s friends not to have sex with them, whether they are male or female. If she had "MILF’ed" one of my kids, you can bet I would be asking for 75 years and be very upset that she didn’t get the maximum sentence.
You will rarely hear Max agree with Hillary Clinton, but I do agree with the concept that it takes a village to raise a child. As parents we should all be looking out for the best interests of all of our kids.
Denise Harvey does not belong in our village.