Tuesday, November 29, 2005

lafave sentence

cnn.com reports that debra beasley lafave, a 25-year-old florida teacher, pleaded guilty to two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior for having sex with a 14-year-old student. she was sentenced to three years of house arrest, seven years probation, and she must register as a sex offender. conditions of her supervision also ban her from profiting financially from her crime.

ms. beasley lafave's photo is already posted on the florida department of law enforcement's sexual predator website. i've gotten somewhat familiar with these sites, since kim gardner began collecting data on the contents of state sex offender registries for her independent thesis project. here is the information that florida provides on debbie lafave:
Sex Offender

Debra Jean Beasley
Debra J Beasley, Debbie Lafave, Debra Lafave, Debra Beasley Lafave

Status: Community Control
Department of Corrections #: T47535 Date of Birth: 08-28-1980
Race: White Sex: Female Height: 5' 07"
Hair: Blond Eyes: Blue Weight: 135 lbs.
Scars, Marks, Tattoos: Tattoo Other:Butterfly On Hip; Tattoo Back:Butterfly; Tattoo Back:Chinese Character;
Last Reported Address: 406 12th St Sw, Ruskin, FL 33570-4182
County: Hillsborough Date Address Entered: 11-24-2005
Qualifying Offense(s): Lewd Or Lascivious Battery Victim 12-15 Years Old (Principal)
Victim(s): Gender: Male ; Minor? Yes Gender: Unknown ; Minor? Yes

aside from her gender and the enormous amount of publicity generated by the case, the entry for ms. lafave/beasley is not dissimilar to others on the site. her age, race, and offense are fairly typical, as are her tattoos. some observers have commented on her physical attractiveness, but even this characteristic is probably not that unusual in the databases (though nobody but sinatra actually looks good in a mug shot). nor is her crime all that unusual. for example, i searched under "beasley" and quickly found a similar case. bobby beasley is also 25 and also convicted of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child under 16.
Sex Offender Bobby Beasley
Alias: Bobby Ray Beasley, Red Beasley
Status: State Incarceration
Department of Corrections #: H08933 Date of Birth: 05-22-1980
Race: White Sex: Male Height: 6' 02"
Hair: Red Eyes: Brown Weight: 178 lbs.
Scars, Marks, Tattoos: Tattoo Right Chest Broken Heart Tattoo Right Chest Broken Heart Tattoo Tat
Last Reported Address: Dept. of Corrections, FL
County: Date Address Entered: 12-05-2001
Qualifying Offense(s): Lewd,Lascivious Child U/16 (Principal)
Victim(s): Gender: Unknown ; Minor? Yes
If further information is needed, please contact the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Sexual Offender/Predator Unit at (1-888-357-7332) between the hours of 8am and 6.30pm, Monday through Friday

i next searched under "debra" and easily found similar florida cases involving females (e.g., debra favre, who also got some publicity). i think the worldwide attention to lafave's situation is likely due to a combo platter of newsworthiness:
  • she's a teacher entrusted with middle school kids, which touches upon parents' fears;
  • the case is set against a backdrop of moral panic over (mostly) male sex offenders, particularly those who victimize children;
  • at 14, the victim in this case was "only" two years from the median age at first intercourse for males;
  • she has posed for calendars, which simultaneously validates her physical attractiveness and sexual desirability to males and makes for great television;
  • and, in a society in which males are viewed as either sexual predators or protectors, we're simply flummoxed by the idea of an adolescent male receiving "unwanted" sexual attention from an attractive young woman.
my point here is that debbie lafave's crimes are far more typical on sex offender registries than the coverage of her story would suggest. the cultural image of the sex offender is a person such as joseph duncan, accused of murder, kidnapping, and rape. yet we apply the same generalized label -- designation as a sex offender -- to duncan, lafave, and thousands of other lafaves.

lafave's sentence will seem light to many, since she isn't doing any jail or prison time beyond house arrest (i mean, even martha went to prison for a few months). for me, it highlights the difficulties in applying gradational punishments for criminal sexual conduct when a categorical "sex offender" stigma is applied to such diverse behaviors.

1 comment:

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