Rep. Cathy Muñoz (R, Child Molesters) is trying to unring the bell.
The bell, in this case, was her decision to write letters in support of lighter sentencing for two different convicted child molesters, perverts who preyed on children.
Rep. Muñoz wrote letters to the sentencing judge in two different child sexual predator cases, urging clemency. According to the Juneau Empire,
“Tom’s [Jack, Jr.] conviction has had a profound impact on me. There have been times when I laid awake at night unable to sleep concerned over the length of his sentence and the cold reality that he may never see freedom again,” Muñoz wrote to Pallenberg, according to a copy of the letter. “He is not a violent person, and I believe he would respond well to rehabilitation.”
Rep. Muñoz was strangely silent on whether Mr. Jack’s victim had trouble sleeping nights.
Rep. Muñoz also wrote a letter in support of Mary Chessica Hauge, who was convicted of eight felony counts of child endangerment after leaving her two daughters with a known sex offender, their biological father. The father repeatedly raped the two young girls over a number of years and created pornography with them.
Sara Tabachnick, the executive director of Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies (AWARE), and something of an expert on the dynamics of interpersonal relationships where there has been child sexual abuse, was restrained – Rep. Muñoz votes on part of AWARE’s budget, after all – in pointing out that victims might need support more than offenders.
Shannyn Moore, in an opinion piece, was much less restrained and excoriated Rep. Muñoz. But Moore invoked Hanlon’s Law: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.” Except that either malice or incompetence speaks to her fitness to be a state legislator.
Charles Wohlforth weighed in on the other side, defending Rep. Muñoz’s conduct. After a couple of straw man arguments, Wohlforth argues,
The best way to prevent future crime and to save money and human potential is to give the minimum sentence necessary to act as a deterrent, and to combine that sentence with treatment and support to change criminal behavior.
WC has two responses. First, the Alaska Supreme Court has long held there are five factors to be considered in setting a criminal sentence. Rehabilitation is one of the five; deterrence and expression of community disapproval are others. Even the best candidate for rehab should still serve a long term if the other factors dictate it. Rep. Muñoz’s blindness to those other factors is the issue.
Second, the prospects for recidivism by sexual offenders is pretty high, especially if the sentence doesn’t include treatment. The rate of recidivism among untreated sex offenders is something like 17%; among treated offenders it is more like 10%. Alaska, on the whole, did a piss-poor job of sexual offender treatment before the budget crisis; Bog knows whether the program even exists now. Besides, Rep. Muñoz was arguing for a lighter sentence, not for rehab.
Add to the mix Rep. Muñoz’s truly bizarre support of a proposed amendment to Alaska’s criminal code that would have prevented a judge from looking at a pervert’s history of perversion in setting a sentence, and excused a 19-year old for having sex with a 13-year old. Or Rep. Muñoz’s obsessive efforts to skirt the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection clause as it applies to abortion rights.1
At first Rep. Muñoz defended her actions, claiming she acted as a private citizen. Then someone pointed out at least one of the letters was on legislative letterhead. Several folks pointed out that even as a private citizen, that kind of appalling conduct might reflect on her fitness to be a legislator. Yet it’s the failure to consider, the failure to even mention, the victims, that is the proper focus for outrage.
Alaska has the nation’s highest rate of sexual assault. It’s so bad that even Governor Sean Parnell kinda sorta tried to do something about it. And Rep. Muñoz is arguing for lighter sentences for the most egregious sexual crime, sexual abuse of minors, with some pretty egregious facts?
Faced with a firestorm of her own making, Rep. Muñoz recanted. She asked to retract her letters of support. That’s works in the criminal sentencing hearings, but it doesn’t unring the bell. In a statement posted to her website, Rep. Muñoz describes herself as “too compassionate” and says:
The two letters I wrote in support of sentencing review unintentionally caused pain to victims of sexual abuse and for that, I sincerely apologize.
Well and good. But then she goes on to blame the media:
Unfortunately, these issues have been politicized without all of the facts and context under which the actions were taken. Moreover, the media storm surrounding my error in judgment is only perpetuating the hurt of those victims trying to move on to rebuild their lives.
It’s a classic Nixonian refuge of scoundrels, painting yourself as the victim and blaming the media. Any smidgen of respect WC might have had for Rep. Muñoz and her quasi-apology vanished when she blamed the media for doing its job, and implied, with a complete lack of evidence, that the publicity resulting from her failures was hurting the children who are the victims. Rep. Muñoz’s pitiful attempt to portray herself as a victim compounds the evidence of her blindness to the real victims, the young children battered by sexual assault.
WC suggests to the voters in Juneau they might be better off with a different person representing them in the state House.
- Here’s a thought experiment for Rep. Muñoz. Let’s suppose that the 13-year old victim was impregnated by one of her father’s rapes. And let’s assume the little girl doesn’t have health insurance. Should the State of Alaska pay for an abortion if the child doesn’t want to carry the incest-created baby to term? Should she live the rest of her life with the knowledge she bore a baby out of rape by her natural father? Go ahead, Rep. Muñoz, take your time with your answer. ↩