Five to Twenty

Yesterday I received a postcard in the mail from the city police department alerting me that a high-risk sex offender recently moved into the neighborhood. It’s the first time I’ve ever received such a notice, and the timing is ironic. I was half-expecting to see my own face on the back of it.

Fortunately, it was someone else. The man was in his thirties and looked surprisingly normal, nothing like the unflattering mug shots you would see on the six-o’clock news. Beneath his name and picture was his address and apartment number along with his charge: sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl. His sentence: three years imprisonment.

I stood by the mailbox for a few minutes staring at the sentencing. Three years. The charge was vague, and could have involved anything from inappropriate contact to rape.

Meanwhile, I face anywhere from five to 20 years in prison with no chance of either parole or probation for downloading images. That’s the way our laws work. I could have sought out and raped a boy and receive a lesser punishment.

Because my offense involved a peer-to-peer program, my exact charge is interstate transportation of child pornography and, as I said, it holds a punishment of five to 20 years imprisonment. I accepted the charge as part of a plea bargain offered by the district attorney. She refused to offer the less harsh possession charge, but I accepted the “bargain” to knock several months off my sentence. Possession of child pornography carries no minimum jail sentence and therefore offers the possibility, albeit unlikely, of probation.

My sentencing is scheduled for March, but my lawyer says postponements are common.