The Kansas State Court of Appeals has upheld a ruling
February 8, 2002 8:05 AM   Subscribe

The Kansas State Court of Appeals has upheld a ruling sentencing an 18-year-old man to 17 years in prison. His crime was performing consensual fellatio on a 15-year-old boy. Had this been a heterosexual act, his sentence would have been a year and three months maximum.
posted by grrarrgh00 (60 comments total)

 
15 is a minor. 18 is an adult. While I think in sex cases, there should be some consideration of the closeness in ages, what if he was 25? 30? (I know the article mentions that there is consideration taken into acocunt for thoses under 19 and minors between 14 and 16.. I'm just agreeing with that).

I think the problem here is if the heterosexual act's punishment is only a year and three months even for those over 19.

Regardless if the 15 year old was consenting, I don't have a problem with the harsher punishment. My issue is that the heterosexual side of things doesn't warrant as hard a sentence, and it should.

What wasn't clear is if the disparaity (in punishments for hetero vs homo) is only present in the '19 and under' cases, or if it exists even for 'regular' sex offenders, too.
posted by rich at 8:13 AM on February 8, 2002


Whatever the punishment is, it should be the same for heterosexual or homosexual acts.
posted by LinemanBear at 8:20 AM on February 8, 2002


15 is a minor. 18 is an adult.

Yeah. How arbitrary is that.
posted by rushmc at 8:20 AM on February 8, 2002


For what it's worth, here is a link to the United States Supreme Court's 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, holding that state anti-sodomy laws do not violate the Constitution (and, by extension, laws that treat sodomy different than other sexual acts are constitutional).
posted by pardonyou? at 8:20 AM on February 8, 2002


By the way, you might specifically note Justice Blackmun's dissent in Bowers, where he notes:

"This case is [not] about 'a fundamental right to engage in homosexual sodomy,' as the Court purports to declare ... Rather, this case is about 'the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men,' namely, 'the right to be let alone.'"
posted by pardonyou? at 8:24 AM on February 8, 2002


Regardless if the 15 year old was consenting, I don't have a problem with the harsher punishment.

17 years for a sex act between a 15 year old and an 18 year old? A sophomore and a senior? Are you serious?

What tripped me up was the mention of the school for the developmentally disabled - were they both developmentally disabled? Equally? Was that a factor?

That aside, this law is reprehensible.
posted by mdn at 8:24 AM on February 8, 2002


Bowers v. Hardwick

Yes, lovely precedent, that one. Right up there with Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson.
posted by thewittyname at 8:29 AM on February 8, 2002


I'd like to recommend some "journalists" to the judge in this case that have been performing fellatio on the entire Bush administration for over a year now with no punishment at all. And from the caliber of their writing/reporting they are almost certainly juveniles. :)
posted by nofundy at 8:31 AM on February 8, 2002


if I could afford it, I'd waste no time in renouncing my citizenship and moving to another country.
posted by mcsweetie at 8:36 AM on February 8, 2002


I'm always bothered when somebody breaks the law, gets sentenced for breaking the law under guidelines established by the state, and then everyone cries "foul!"

I do not necessarily agree with the law as it exists (actually, I think sodomy laws are silly and childish), but you have to recognize that in breaking the law, Limon could face prosecution. Which he did.

Of course, it also irks me that somebody would actually report this to the cops in the first place. If they were at all discreet, why couldn't they just be left alone?

Strange place, Kansas.
posted by rocketman at 8:37 AM on February 8, 2002


I'm always bothered when somebody breaks the law, gets sentenced for breaking the law under guidelines established by the state, and then everyone cries "foul!"

even if that law is the judicial equivalent to a hate crime? it's called progress, and step one is speaking out.
posted by mcsweetie at 8:49 AM on February 8, 2002


Actually, Matthew Limon was 17 years old when he committed the "crime." He was still a minor at the time of the offense.

I posted this link because I think there's a danger of complacence about the status of civil rights in this country. Generally, we're vaguely aware of the existence of sodomy laws, but we naively imagine that they are rarely prosecuted, and that they have only negligible effects if so. We think of them as (possibly amusing) reminders of America's more puritanical age. But this case underscores the absolute ridiculousness of the situation. If the Kansas State judicial system gets its way, Matthew Limon will be imprisoned for almost as long as he has lived. He will be released when he is 35.

At the very least, we might feel that we are immune to this sort of atrocity in "progressive" America. Perhaps this case would have been more widely publicized as an appalling human rights violation were it to occur in Malaysia, for example. Or maybe in Egypt.

And of course, this isn't just a gay rights issue. As stated above, the incident would have carried penalties even if it were a heterosexual act. But how tragic that a young man's life stands poised to be ruined by our pretensions to morality.

For more information on sodomy laws (including state-by-state essays on the history of sodomy laws in America), go [here] [here] or [here].
posted by grrarrgh00 at 8:50 AM on February 8, 2002


if I could afford it, I'd waste no time in renouncing my citizenship and moving to another country.

If you live in another state, it's almost the same thing.
posted by holycola at 8:52 AM on February 8, 2002


Strike that. Limon had just turned 18 when he committed the act.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 8:53 AM on February 8, 2002


Hey, I'm as gay as the next Mefi-er, and I agree that there needs to be a lot of changes to state's sodomy laws. But along with happening at a school for the developmentally disabled, this was also his second offense. - His juvenile record contained a similar offense from 1998, making his sentence in the latest case more severe.

There seems to be more here than the article goes into... Plus, everyone knows you should wait until College to start the gay sex.
posted by FreezBoy at 9:02 AM on February 8, 2002


Well, the only thing more obvious than the need to stop these evil evil faggots before they ruin our fair land is the absolute totality of the separation between church and state.

I'm going to give the room some credit, and avoid highlighting the sarcasm tags.
Did you spot the sarcasm? It was subtle, I know, but I'm just that good at it.

posted by dong_resin at 9:14 AM on February 8, 2002


For the 15 being a minor and 18 being an adult, I don't argue the arbitrariness (is that a Bush-ism?) of it.

I'm just sticking to the law, and the way punishments are spelled out.

And as for the 17 year punishment for sex between a 15 year old and an 18 year old.. well, I think that is a bit harsh, and agreed with the provision for special consideration for those close in age (but have an issue that it only covers heterosexual sex).

But I have no problem with a 17 year punishment for an adult having sex with a minor. I am wondering, though, if heterosexual child molestors get off easier than homosexual ones. (ok, that sentence sounds REALLY bad).

I like Nevada's law I learned about on CSI last night - sex with under 14 year old - life in prision with no possibility of parole.
posted by rich at 9:15 AM on February 8, 2002


Plus, everyone knows you should wait until College to start the gay sex.

It's in our bible: Judy Garland's Autobiography.
posted by pooldemon at 9:27 AM on February 8, 2002


I may be clueless here, but wouldn't he have gotten less time if he had just killed him? I mean, who gets 17 years for 'just' murder these days?
posted by imaswinger at 9:37 AM on February 8, 2002


I grew up and went to college in Kansas. It's significant that the incident took place in Paola, which is in the middle of nowhere, and not Kansas City or Lawrence, which by midwestern standards are quite liberal areas (especially Lawrence, home to KU, where the gay advocacy group is one of the most vocal on campus). Clearly the arresting officer, the D.A., and the jury were all bass-ackwards countryfucks. In Paola, the fact that the guy was gay was probably considered sufficient reason for him to be in this developmentally disabled people's home to begin with. It's good 'ole boy, back country justice, and far be it from the compulsively conservative state government to reverse the decision of the country folk. Them farmers has dealt with enuff trouble already. Yip!
posted by bingo at 10:04 AM on February 8, 2002


Too bad there's no standardized way of separating "juveniles" from "adults" other than age. Then all we'd have to worry about is the definition of "consent".
posted by tommasz at 10:11 AM on February 8, 2002


Wow, Kansas is sure going all out to promote itself to the world. First the whole evolution thing and now this! I'm sure people are just lining up to get in now.
posted by Poagao at 10:12 AM on February 8, 2002


Sadly, Poagao, there are millions of people in the USA who agree with both not teaching evolution and the persecution of gays.

That big part of middle America that voted for "Dubya" probably thinks that way.
posted by aacheson at 10:47 AM on February 8, 2002


I feel like it's pretty easy to abstract this case to an issue of rules and numbers and say, "yeah, that kinda sucks, but ya know, what can ya do?" And that's fine, to an extent. I understand that the law is the law. But I wholeheartedly believe that this instance sheds light on a system that begs for change. When you take a moment to consider the people involved, you move from callous abstraction into real horror. Had the incident occurred a few weeks before, when Limon was still 17, it would have been a non-issue. Had the recipient of the blow job been a girl, he would have had to face a significantly diminished sentence.

I don't want to sour Limon's case by sentimentalizing it, but allow me to paint a portrait. When he's 15 years old, Limon starts fooling around with other guys. His activities are discovered, and he's given a slap on the wrist for his shameful behavior (1998, the spot on his juvenile record that the article mentions). Three years later, he's still at it. He meets a fellow that's almost 15, who is also beginning to explore his sexuality. They meet discreetly, they fool around. Limon turns 18, the encounters continue. They get caught. Limon has to face a sentence equivalent to his age. Is it because he a) is gay or b) has the misfortune of having a birthday in January as opposed to February?

That whole scenario just seems egregiously wrong to me. So many pieces of it don't make sense. He will be 36. I'm sure his time in prison will rehabilitate him so that he's fit for society when he gets out, don't you think? And hell, I'm not proud. I'm not above mentioning that the boy is handicapped. Sure, it doesn't have anything to do with anything. But it's just a horrific situation to be confronted with in a society that prides itself on its treatment of humans. How do you decimate someone's life like that?
posted by grrarrgh00 at 10:49 AM on February 8, 2002


I understand that the law is the law. But I wholeheartedly believe that this instance sheds light on a system that begs for change.

That was what I was trying to imply with my earlier comment. Just because I agree with punishing people who break our laws doesn't mean I think those laws should not change.

mcsweetie: "the judicial equivalent to a hate crime"? Like ice fishing is the sportsmen's equivalent of sexual harassment, sure.
posted by rocketman at 11:07 AM on February 8, 2002


Ha, go back to FindLaw and read Plessy vs. Ferguson for a great laugh (though a somewhat sad one), if you are unfamiliar with it.

As has been stated more eloquently above, this is discrimination. Sex with a minor should not be punished differently based on the gender of the people involved.
posted by McBain at 11:08 AM on February 8, 2002


Personally, I think this situation is a bunch of horsesh*t. I'd love to see the law changed. But as it is, I won't feel sorry for someone who is punished for breaking the law.
posted by rocketman at 11:32 AM on February 8, 2002


Yeah, sticking him in prison will definitely show him the evil of his ways. There's definitely no chance he'll be giving blowjobs to juveniles there. Oh, wait, Kansas is allowed to put juvenile offenders in with the adult population.

What exactly are they hoping to teach him again?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:34 AM on February 8, 2002


I'm embarrassed to be a Kansan.
posted by Hugh2d2 at 11:39 AM on February 8, 2002


I'm embarrassed to be a Kansan.
posted by Hugh2d2 at 11:40 AM on February 8, 2002


everyone knows you should wait until College to start the gay sex.

Dammit! First I never get a copy of the Agenda, and now I missed the bylaws, too.

It's in our bible: Judy Garland's Autobiography.

And now I find out there's a handbook?

What's wrong with you people? Why can't I get my mail?
posted by ebarker at 11:41 AM on February 8, 2002


They're hoping to teach him to not break the rules. It's too bad they've decided to come down so harsh. It really is.

But prison is one of the options open to judges when sentencing criminals, and the judge on this case chose to use it.
posted by rocketman at 11:43 AM on February 8, 2002


Yuck. Ugly for the 15 year old, ugly for the 18 year old, ugly for the state of Georgia. How did this case get to this horrible point? Gah. Showertime.

Sex with a minor should not be punished differently based on the gender of the people involved.

Well put, and exactly so. We really have to pull together as a team, all of us, and stop fucking (or fellating) minors. It's not worth it. Really, it's not. They don't know what they're doing, and you could end up in prison. Seriously, wait until they're 18. No, really. Please.

I am never going to find a babysitter. NEVER! [shudders]

That big part of middle America that voted for "Dubya" probably thinks that way.

Not so. Don't think you have the lock on common sense and equanimity of thought because you live near the ocean, aacheson. That's as denigrating as the opposite. There are a lot of people in the midwest who revere freedom and hate stupidity, tyranny and calumny as much as you, myself included.
posted by UncleFes at 11:56 AM on February 8, 2002


Except that (as I hope the next court decides) the law is unconstitutional. Matthew Limon didn't just break the law. The frickin' law broke the law. And it would be a travesty to see this kid get 17 years in prison and have his constitutional rights violated in the same fell swoop.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 12:00 PM on February 8, 2002


grrarrgh00 - Don't get me wrong, I think that the amount of time he's been sentenced to is outrageous. However, is that nice portrait you paint above based in fact? The article goes on to say, "Initially, their encounter was consensual." Initially.

Yes, statutes should be changed to make sexual orientation equal a non-issue with regard to the law, but I don't think Limon v. Kansas is the case to cite.
posted by FreezBoy at 12:04 PM on February 8, 2002


What are the chances this kid'll end up in front of a federal appellate judge? Can he do that?
posted by UncleFes at 12:05 PM on February 8, 2002


Thank you, FreezBoy.
posted by rocketman at 12:09 PM on February 8, 2002


I'm embarrassed to belong to a race of people who advocate homosexuality.
posted by aaronshaf at 12:11 PM on February 8, 2002


Well, like that crazy rock and roll, I'm pretty sure it's here to stay.
posted by UncleFes at 12:20 PM on February 8, 2002


Aaronshaf, how about joining a group of people who don't feel the need to force their beliefs on everyone and let them live their lives in peace?

Consensual is the key here.
posted by Hugh2d2 at 12:20 PM on February 8, 2002


Freezboy: Honestly, I don't know these people. My depiction was an attempt to humanize the situation. Mine is a story with the same parameters that would have ended up the same way. When the article says "Initially, their encounter was consensual," I don't think it's suggesting that Limon at any time forced the younger boy to have sex. I think it's an allusion to the legal distinction that a minor cannot consent to have sex with an adult. So when Limon turned 18, it turned (in the eyes of the court) from consent to statutory rape.

My outrage (and the fact that I have posted like a million times now and should probably just shut up) grows out of all the issues this case brings up. The primary one being the 17 years of his life that Matthew Limon stands to lose as punishment for a situation that I strongly feel does not warrant such punitive severity. These are 17 years that will have little to no rehabilitative purpose, and will probably actually make him a less productive member of society. Also, there's the inequity of the law's application and what seems to me to be a blatant violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

I want to say to the Kansas judiciary, "Go ahead. Apply the law. Sacrifice this boy on the altar of your relativist morality." (OK, no I don't, really. I'd be happy if this boy spent maybe a year in prison and got paroled.) But I want people to get mad about it. I think the laws should be changed.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 12:24 PM on February 8, 2002


Hugh2d2, how about not asssuming that I force my beliefs on others, and allowing for the possibility that I do let other people live their lives in peace.

Free speech.
posted by aaronshaf at 12:26 PM on February 8, 2002


Ack! I've been forced to read a dissenting opinion! My eyes, they bleed! What a world!
posted by rocketman at 12:42 PM on February 8, 2002


aaronshaf,

A serious question for you: I'm confused as to why you think protesting this judge's ruling is in any way an "advocation" of homosexuality? What I'm most curious about is the hypocracy of the longer sentence for this homosexual act versus what the punishment would have been if the situation was heterosexual. Do you feel that protesting this hypocracy is "advocating"homosexuality? And if so, do you see that people might simply be advocating equality instead?
posted by thewittyname at 12:44 PM on February 8, 2002


"I'm embarrassed to belong to a race of people who advocate homosexuality."

"Aaronshaf, how about joining a group of people who don't feel the need to force their beliefs on everyone and let them live their lives in peace?

Consensual is the key here."

"Hugh2d2, how about not asssuming that I force my beliefs on others, and allowing for the possibility that I do let other people live their lives in peace.

Free speech."


nice Troll!
posted by jcterminal at 12:58 PM on February 8, 2002


aaronshaf says, I'm embarrassed to belong to a race of people who advocate homosexuality.

If it embarrasses you to be human, perhaps there are other races which are currently accepting applications.
posted by chuq at 1:00 PM on February 8, 2002


grrarrgh00: Point taken, and I do agree in principle.
posted by FreezBoy at 1:02 PM on February 8, 2002


But as it is, I won't feel sorry for someone who is punished for breaking the law.

So if the law were that you could get executed for speeding and that happened to someone, you wouldn't feel sorry for him? Yes, that's an extreme example, but surely whether you feel sorry for someone shouldn't be as cut and dried as whether they broke a law, no matter how stupid the law is.

At fifteen, most gay men are mature enough to know whether they want to have sex with someone. The law is arbitrary and anachronistic.

Also, aaronshaf: if it'll make you feel any better, I'm happy to consider you not human.
posted by anapestic at 1:08 PM on February 8, 2002


(sorry about the troll biting that i'm about to do) aaronshaf: you might have a bit of trouble though, as a lot of other species practice homosexuality too.

anyway - the laws are crazy and arbitrary in this country, I'm sure they are other places as well. I think that we have a right as patriotic citizens to protest when judges get out of control. as imaswinger pointed out. 17 years is a long time to get for Murder... it's also a lot to get for forced fellatio (Austinites will remember the Officer Ramirez case, if that indeed was the case. It's a long time to be in prison either way. I'm not sure, but perhaps it would be better if our judicial system was a bit more cut and dry, so that judges had less discrecion.
posted by goneill at 1:30 PM on February 8, 2002


That aside, this law is reprehensible.
More to the point, this law sucks.
posted by Holden at 1:33 PM on February 8, 2002


At fifteen, most gay men are mature enough to know whether they want to have sex with someone.

anapestic, does this imply that gay men mature faster, or can this be extended to heterosexual men? I find it hard to believe that anyone 15 years old is an "adult", but perhaps I'm biased.
posted by tommasz at 1:34 PM on February 8, 2002


anapestic, does this imply that gay men mature faster, or can this be extended to heterosexual men?

No. Yes. I was just speaking from my own experience, but I'm pretty sure it includes straight men as well.
posted by anapestic at 1:42 PM on February 8, 2002


anapestic: the reason for such "anachronistic laws" is to protect minors. obviously, fifteen-year-olds can make decisions. but we live in a society that has determined they may not be able to make particularly wise decisions.

frankly, I agree with that conclusion. adolescents are easily manipulated.

and your speeding example isn't just extreme: it's crap. the only way such a penalty could come about is if society felt more strongly about traffic safety than anything else--yes, even murder. in which case, i'd probably be in the same boat with everyone else, feel the same way, and not feel much sympathy for some sucker who didn't know enough to obey the law.
posted by rocketman at 1:50 PM on February 8, 2002


grrarrgh00;

One point about being unconstitutional.. it isn't. The federal courts have never allowed separate protection based on sexual preference.. It is race, sex (no preference, only male/female), religion.

Something that needs to be fixed, but homosexuality has no federal protection under the current law.
posted by rich at 2:06 PM on February 8, 2002


RE: Don't think you have the lock on common sense and equanimity of thought because you live near the ocean, aacheson.

UncleFes, of course not everyone on the inside of the States feels that way (and I should have said so in the beginning) But the inside of the USA voted heavily for Bush, it is heavily conservative, heavily christian, pretty damn white (except in some pockets) and straight, and isn't generally known for its' acceptance of homosexuality.

Coastal big cities voted heavily for Gore, is heavily left, more diversly religious, consists of more mixed races, and is generally known for its' tolerance, of homosexuality.

It's just the way it is. There are certainly bigots everywhere, but more of them seem to be in "Hometown, USA." than in Oakland, California.

I'm glad you're not one of them.
posted by aacheson at 2:23 PM on February 8, 2002


As a Kansan, I'm not really all that surprised. I'm from the Kansas City area, which is much more liberal than most of the state. It really didn't surprise me that this is out of Topeka, where our favorite Fred Phelps is from. Not that Topeka is all bad. (Side note: Mr. Phelps apologized to an Indian friend of mine, sad that she was going to burn in hell because she doesn't worship JC. Wonderful guy, that Fred.)

Please just remember not all Kansans are like this. Just most of us.
posted by gramcracker at 2:55 PM on February 8, 2002


Everyone's talking about the 17-year sentence compared to murder sentences, etc. But the article doesn't tell us what the earliest possible time of release is. If the sentence is firm, it is pretty depressing to imagine the USA (even the Kansas) of 2019 (presumably a more enlightened place?) holding this man in prison.

Also, re the Equal Protection argument: I'm unconvinced that this is a case of legal discrimination based on sexual orientation and not on sex. Limon is getting punished more severely because of the biological sex of his "victim" (or of himself: if he were female, the offense would be seen as minor). I guess I should have gone to law school to see how this is not the case.
posted by Zurishaddai at 3:09 PM on February 8, 2002


rich: Along the lines of what Zurishaddai is arguing, the Equal Protection Clause could be invoked to say that if Limon were female, he would be getting a maximum of a year and a three months in prison. Legally, he's not being incarcerated for sodomy (which is only a misdemeanor, even in Kansas); but statutory rape (which is a felony). It's the courts who are bringing sexual orientation into the question; part of my contention is that any person, male or female, who commits the act of statutory rape should receive equivalent punishment.

But yes, that a crap-ass decision like Bowers v. Hardwick could even be referenced should be a sign that America is in more dire need of even more fundamental change. The law stands that, according to Bowers v. Hardwick, our government does not recognize homsexual intercourse as a constitutional right, so its status is determined individually by the states, who have the jurisdiction to declare it illegal. How is that right? Wasn't this whole American social contract predicated on the idea of a) equal rights and b) significant individual freedom? Hello, pursuit of happiness.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 4:54 PM on February 8, 2002


I'm embarrassed to belong to a race of people who advocate homosexuality.

Closet case.
posted by Optamystic at 1:21 AM on February 9, 2002


I'm embarrassed to belong to a race of people who advocate homosexuality.
Closet case.


The best part is that his homepage has a random quote generator up at the top. When I first opened the page, the quote displayed was from Walt Whitman. ;)

----

Anyway, my take on this case is that it's BS.

The idea that for our 18th birthday we go to sleep children and wake up adults is just insulting to me. I'm absolutely, 100% against adults taking advantage of minors sexually, but sheesh, let's get a clue. >20 year old with a <16 year old? Yeah, i'd say there's definitely a problem there. But 18 with a 15? Get serious.

I've actually been in an extremely similar situation (although without the mental hospital angle). About 4 months before I turned 18 I got into a relationship with a 16 year old. On the day I turned 18, at my birthday party even, someone that knew my situation mentioned to me that I had to break things off--if I continued to have sex after turning 18, I could go to jail if certain folks were to find out (ie, the parents).

I looked up the appropriate laws, and sure enough it was true. I ended up making one of the most difficult, and as it turned out, the worst decision of my life. I ended the relationship.

This all just seems so very silly to me.
posted by Swifty at 12:40 PM on February 9, 2002


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