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Ignorance in the First Degree
February 2, 2004 10:26 AM   Subscribe

In 2000, 18-year-old Matthew Limon was tried for having sex with a 14-year old. Under Kansas state law, the consensual, though illegal, act merited a maximum 15-month sentence. Except the 14-year old was also male. Last week, the Kansas appeals court ruled that because of this, Limon posed a "greater danger to the sexual mores of society," and ruled as such it was fair to sentence Limon to 17 years in prison. State prosecutors applaud the decision as a victory against "the potential attack on Kansas' ban on gay marriage."
posted by XQUZYPHYR (42 comments total)

 
Oh wait, it gets beter:
Limon and [the 14 yr old], identified in court only as M.A.R., lived at a group home for the developmentally disabled.
posted by crunchburger at 10:34 AM on February 2, 2004


I think the sentence is ridiculous as are the courts comments. But this sentence caught my eye: "Limon and the boy, identified in court only as M.A.R., lived at a group home for the developmentally disabled.". Something more to this? Group homes can be rough places. Maybe the kid was bullied or coerced into it. Or perhaps if the kid was disabled it made people more likely to see it as "taking advantage."

I'm not saying either is true, just something that occurred to me.
posted by jonmc at 10:36 AM on February 2, 2004


Limon and [the 14 yr old], identified in court only as M.A.R., lived at a group home for the developmentally disabled.

As someone who used to be a PO for sex offenders, I can tell you that sex among the developmentally disabled is a fucked-up and ill-defined legal can of worms. For example, if two retarded adults have consensual sex it is prosecuted the way that some states treat sex between minors: both are seen to be committing a crime because the other is incapable of consent, and the role of perpetrator and victim are sorted out based on who calls it first (or, as was the case in every similar case I ever got involved in, they just convict the black guy, call the white girl a victim).
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 10:43 AM on February 2, 2004


No matter what their status as disabled or not, are straight teens getting prosecuted for the same things? This sucks, and it is clearly unequal treatment under the law. Had Limon's partner been an underage girl, he could have been convicted of unlawful sex under the state's "Romeo and Juliet" law and sentenced at most to one year and three months in prison.
posted by amberglow at 10:47 AM on February 2, 2004


As someone who used to be a PO for sex offenders,...

That must've given you a wonderful view of humanity. I admire your willingness to do the job, since I don't know if I'd have the stomach for it.
posted by jonmc at 10:49 AM on February 2, 2004


God, that's depressing. I have nothing else to say.

What a country.
posted by xmutex at 10:50 AM on February 2, 2004


Plenty of news sources seem to be reporting that the status of the 14 year old boy living in a home, is not an issue. For example the Guardian covers the story in the same way as XQUZYPHYR's link.

In which case <insert outrage at discrimination here>

It seems pretty odd that the quoted judge is talking about the associated higher risks to health in homosexual sex, when it was just a blowjob.
posted by Blue Stone at 10:54 AM on February 2, 2004


We had Dick Kurtenbach come to school to discuss the case last semester. Phil Kline, the Kansas AG, contacted us after he heard about Kurtenbach's presentation, but he decided not to come school talk about the case himself. It is hard to believe that this was the winning brief. Here is a link to the Court of Appeals opinion. It was a 2-1 decision, with a strong dissent.
posted by sp dinsmoor at 10:56 AM on February 2, 2004


Hmmmm... I seem to have lost two to's.
... come {to} school {to} talk ...
posted by sp dinsmoor at 11:00 AM on February 2, 2004


That ought to teach them gay fellers that (insert stupid backwards southern state here) won't tolerate that gay sex stuff.

And the soul of the world curdles just a little bit more.

A victory for the heads-in-their-asses posse!
posted by fenriq at 11:02 AM on February 2, 2004


There are no 'inherently higher risks' in homosexual sex. You can only transmit a disease if you carry it yourself.

The supposed 'higher risk' comes from the supposition that some homosexuals tend to have more sexual partners than heterosexuals. Unless they can prove that the perpetrator had a large number of sexual partners, they can't prove that the sex was more risky.

Of course, following this argument, they let all the horny heterosexual men off scott-free (but of course, I'm not surprised).
posted by PigAlien at 11:02 AM on February 2, 2004


I can't believe I'd even attempt to rebut such an ignorant argument to begin with... forgive me!
posted by PigAlien at 11:04 AM on February 2, 2004


For example, if two retarded adults have consensual sex it is prosecuted the way that some states treat sex between minors

That really depends on the level of mental retardation. severely mentally retarded persons that have had their legal status placed into the hands of an institution or custodial guardian are viewed as such. Functional mentally retarded adults that simply live in assisted living facilities may be fully capable legally of making their own sexual decisions. Apparently this young man (18 makes him an adult) was legal according to court findings. Perhaps what is additional to this finding could be that the other boy was far more mentally retarded? I do not know, I do know what life is like in these sorts of facilities having managed one for a couple of years. It would not be unheard of to have more functional individuals living in the same home as severely disabled individuals. What should be noted is that a legal adult was living in a juvenile facility, I believe that could be a serious oversight.

With all that said, I wonder when people will begin to stop equating being hard on gays as a victory for the "sanctity of marriage" Are these not separate issues?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:07 AM on February 2, 2004


Gay, jews, black, white, yellow , terrorist ...just a bunch of labels provided for free to hateful fearful people to vent on
and distract their already twisted minds from issues at hand.

But I think there is a problem in the definition of consesual indeed ; what are the conditions or pre-conditions that make sex consensual or not consensual ? What is the rationale for forbidding minors from having sex with each other or why is age the discrimination criteria , if we take religions and their frequent lack of explanations out of the function ?
posted by elpapacito at 11:24 AM on February 2, 2004


as bad as this looks, might this case not be a blessing in disguise (except for those involved), since the appeal looks very strong?

ianal, but can someone who is maybe explain how "differing penalties for homosexual versus heterosexual sodomy" could possibly be ruled constitutional, especially in light of the SCOTUS' ruling in June?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:35 AM on February 2, 2004


I really hope that there are other factors here than just the homosexuality of the defendant, because taken at face value, this decision is so amazingly ignorant and repulsive that it makes me want to weep for humanity.

Sigh. Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain.
posted by John Smallberries at 12:00 PM on February 2, 2004


I would just like to take this time to point out that heterosexual intercourse causes cervical cancer.
posted by Hildegarde at 12:00 PM on February 2, 2004


A victory for the heads-in-their-asses posse!

Funny how they allow heads in asses, but not... (shame on me)
posted by notsnot at 12:02 PM on February 2, 2004


That must've given you a wonderful view of humanity. I admire your willingness to do the job, since I don't know if I'd have the stomach for it.

Actually, stomach-wise, I've found that you prepare yourself for the worst. I was able to brush off having met the child molestors by telling myself that they were just as heinous before I met them, and that I could only get stronger through knowledge. In fact, I ended up with a perception of "sex offenders" that is about 180 degress from the way I started, Like so many loaded words, "sex offender" gets thrown around by a prosecutor whenever they want to make and impact, and the result is that the vast majority of people forced to register were convicted of things like consensual statutory rape (especially when it was a black guy having sex with a white girl) and public urination (you know, they use their dong for that, and dongs are bad).

In my experience (in Oregon), maybe 10% of sex offenders have something so horrible as to make them deserve a lifetime of an inescapably stigmatized label. Hell, as just a normal guy with a normal (not exactly hog-wild) sexual history, I could personally relate to the "offenses" of maybe a 3rd of the clients, but being white, middle class, and not previously on probation, I would never have been prosecuted for the stuff (I've peed in public; I had a younger girlfriend my junior year of high school).
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:08 PM on February 2, 2004


IANAL either, but having just read the Court of Appeals opinion--it's interesting that O'Connor, in the Lawrence opinion, argued that the statute in question in that case should have been struck down under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, not the Due Process Clause. The Kansas Court of Appeals appears to hang its entire decision on that distinction.
posted by Prospero at 12:17 PM on February 2, 2004


notsnot : > (and they're wondering why i'm laughing so hard in my cube)
posted by amberglow at 12:26 PM on February 2, 2004


You know, I wonder how much the Kansas court was motivated by fear of gay marraige. If I'm not mistaken, the Massachusetts decision that required gay marraige based it's decision on the equal protection clause. It's possible that the Kansas court felt that if it ruled that "protecting the sexual mores of society" was not a rational basis for the sentencing disparity, then they'd be paving the way for a future court to find that it was also not a rational basis for forbiding gay marriage. And I think they'd be right to worry, actually.

Not that this excuses what is clearly a manifest injustice. But I'd be surprise if gay marriage wasn't ultimate what drove the court.
posted by boltman at 12:37 PM on February 2, 2004


Reminds me of the age of consent in Canada. For male/female sex it's 14, for female/female sex it's 14, and for male/male sex it's 18.

Right... Because?
posted by ODiV at 12:42 PM on February 2, 2004


notsnot, I realized just as I hit the post button that that was coming, thanks for not making me wait too long!
posted by fenriq at 12:50 PM on February 2, 2004


If I'm not mistaken, the Massachusetts decision that required gay marraige based it's decision on the equal protection clause.

The majority opinion in Lawrence based its decision on the Due Process clause. O'Connor concurred with the outcome of the majority opinion, but not the means by which it was achieved--in a separate opinion she wrote that the Texas statute should have been struck down under the Equal Protection Clause, but was the only Justice to do so.
posted by Prospero at 12:57 PM on February 2, 2004


what year is it again?
posted by mcsweetie at 12:59 PM on February 2, 2004


So all that nation under equality shit goes out the window in Kansas...

Consent is consent, homosexual or not...
posted by LoopSouth at 12:59 PM on February 2, 2004


There are no 'inherently higher risks' in homosexual sex.

Unless of course you are including the risk of incarceration.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:09 PM on February 2, 2004


The framing of this post is dishonest. This was Matthew Limon's third conviction for statutory rape, and the first two times he wasn't sentenced to 17 years in prison. So let's not pretend that he was given a 17 year punitive sentence because he was gay. He wasn't. He was given a 17 year punitive sentence because if we don't put him in prison, he's clearly not going to stop having sex with minors. (And if you believe seriously that minors can't give consent, that makes him a serial rapist).

Moreover, the ACLU explicitly argued that it was a constitutional right for any child age 13 and older to consent to have sex with anyone. It's not like either side was being totally reasonable here.
posted by gd779 at 1:31 PM on February 2, 2004


it's interesting that O'Connor, in the Lawrence opinion, argued that the statute in question in that case should have been struck down under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, not the Due Process Clause. The Kansas Court of Appeals appears to hang its entire decision on that distinction.

Wait, wait. On June 27, two days after it issued its Lawrence decision, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order in Limon v. Kansas:

The judgment is vacated and the case is remanded to the Court of Appeals of Kansas for further consideration in light of Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. ___ (2003).

The U.S. Supreme Court was telegraphing to the Kansas Appeals Court that the Kansas court's prior decision -- which was essentially identical to last week's decision -- was unconstitutional (see this NY Times article from June). In disregarding this almost blatant directive, the Kansas court is just being stubborn and is playing dumb. I'm pissed.
posted by Tin Man at 4:01 PM on February 2, 2004


Prospero: Yes, but I'm talking about the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruing that the state was constitutionally required to allow gays to marry. I'm pretty sure that case was decided on equal protection grounds, and I'm just saying that the Kansas judges are probably aware of the that decision and wanted to squarely reject its basic premise that laws that seek to regulate sexual morality lack a "rational basis."

I'd have to sit down and read both the Kansas and the Mass. decisions to be sure about this, but one shouldn't underestimate the extent to which social conservatives are freaking out about the gay marraige thing. I think its quite likely that we'll see a lot of very harsh anti-gay decisions coming out of the state courts (who, remember, tend to have elected judges) as they try to create legal precedents which allow states to regulate sexual morality and marriage however they like (bounded only by a very narrow reading of Lawrence).

also, I have to admit, gd's added info certainly casts the decision in a slightly better light, but still--17 years in jail?
posted by boltman at 4:01 PM on February 2, 2004


Gd's info is also irrelevant to the two basic issues: the question of whether consensual sex with a girl would have merited the same sentence, under the same circumstances, and the degree to which the Kansas court and the prosecutors are being unreasonably harsh in order to 'send a message' to social liberals and pro-gay-rights courts.
posted by Chanther at 4:46 PM on February 2, 2004


I thought that's why Gd's info was relevant...isn't he saying that even if it was a girl, he'd get the same sentence because of his prior convictions....?
posted by sip at 4:58 PM on February 2, 2004


I've worked with a wide range of adults and youth with developmental disabilities over the years, and have seen many examples of bizarre shit, but mostly from the way 'normal thinking' people react to their behavior then from the clients themselves. Granted, Limon has done this before. None but the highest functioning (IQ 70+) should be held legally liable for their 'inappropriate sexual behavior, which frankly happens rather regularly in settings like this, no matter how effective the scrutiny is. Homosexuality in any enclosed residential facility, beit prison, group homes, or an aircraft carrier is going to happen. Especially since it's *natural.*

I just can't get my head around sentencing someone who is DD to 17 years in prison for a hummer. Not earning a star for the day would've been more like it.
posted by moonbird at 5:00 PM on February 2, 2004


In disregarding this almost blatant directive, the Kansas court is just being stubborn and is playing dumb.

Yes indeedy.

Yes, but I'm talking about the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruing that the state was constitutionally required to allow gays to marry. I'm pretty sure that case was decided on equal protection grounds, and I'm just saying that the Kansas judges are probably aware of the that decision and wanted to squarely reject its basic premise that laws that seek to regulate sexual morality lack a "rational basis."

Oh--I flew past the word Massachusetts there. My bad.

Goodridge v. Dept. of Health was indeed decided, more or less, on equal-protection grounds, and favorably cites O'Connor's concurring opinion in Lawrence.

It seems like the Kansas decision is (obstinately) dealing more with the letter of the law in Lawrence, rather than its spirit.
posted by Prospero at 5:40 PM on February 2, 2004


gd779 -- given the undeniable bent of the decision itself, to quote

Judge Henry W. Green Jr. wrote in the 2-1 decision that legislators could justify differing penalties for homosexual versus heterosexual sodomy in plenty of ways

I hardly think that the link is framed in a dishonest way. You may have issues with the tone taken in the article, but the editorial treatment here seems proper.

Personally I feel rather sorry for married Kansans, if their marriages are so weak and devoid of substance that allowing MOTSS to marry would make their own marriages meaningless...
posted by clevershark at 7:02 PM on February 2, 2004


The framing of this post is dishonest. This was Matthew Limon's third conviction for statutory rape, and the first two times he wasn't sentenced to 17 years in prison. So let's not pretend that he was given a 17 year punitive sentence because he was gay. He wasn't. He was given a 17 year punitive sentence because if we don't put him in prison, he's clearly not going to stop having sex with minors.

Excuse me, but the FPP stated that Matthew Limon is 18 years old himself. That doesn't sound like much of a serial statutory rapist to me, when you consider how slight the age differences are.

Indeed, when I did just a few seconds more research, it appears that Mr. Limon's previous two convictions were not for statutory rape, but were convictions under a pre-Lawrence v. Texas sodomy law when he was a juvenile. Even if Limon did have statutory rape convictions (which he did not), the sentence is still unjustified because a heterosexual "serial statutory rapist" would still get at most 15 months in jail.
posted by jonp72 at 7:47 PM on February 2, 2004


isn't he saying that even if it was a girl, he'd get the same sentence because of his prior convictions....?

Sorry if I wasn't clear, my point was narrower than that. My point wasn't that he'd get the same sentence if had sex with a girl (he wouldn't, that's the legal issue that's being questioned here) but that he wouldn't ever be sentenced to 17 years on a first crime just for being gay. Which is true, I think.

when I did just a few seconds more research, it appears that Mr. Limon's previous two convictions were not for statutory rape, but were convictions under a pre-Lawrence v. Texas sodomy law when he was a juvenile.

As Ignatius pointed out earlier, when a minor has sex with another minor, it is statutory rape. A minor can't give consent. It is true, however, that I assumed - wrongly as it turns out - that his two crimes were much more recent than they actually were. Because of this, I have to say that this post wasn't actually dishonest. My mistake.

the FPP stated that Matthew Limon is 18 years old himself. That doesn't sound like much of a serial statutory rapist to me, when you consider how slight the age differences are.

I suspect that's because you don't know about or haven't thought about why we have statutory rape laws. The idea is that the "age of consent" is different for every person - some people are obviously more mature than others sooner. But there is an absolute bottom floor, beyond which we believe no one, no matter how mature, is going to be capable of giving consent. It's important to realize that statutory rape age limits represent the latest place where it is absolutely clear that the child didn't give consent. That's why statutory rape is taken so seriously. Sex before a child is ready can do enormous damage, and this is supposed to be the age where we know it virtually always causes damage to the child.

Even if Limon did have statutory rape convictions... the sentence is still unjustified because a heterosexual "serial statutory rapist" would still get at most 15 months in jail.

Actually, a serial statutory rapist probably would get the 17 years in jail. However, it is true that an 18 year old in Matthew Limon's position, who had consensual heterosexual sex with someone four years younger than him, would probably only get 15 months in jail, because of the specific exclusion the legislature carved out.
posted by gd779 at 8:12 PM on February 2, 2004


In other words, Matthew Limon is theoretically no worse off in Kansas than he would have been in one of the many states without the "Romeo and Juliet" exclusion. (And the last time I looked, that was most of them). His complaint is that a heterosexual statutory rapist in his position in Kansas would be eligible for the exclusion, while he is not.
posted by gd779 at 8:16 PM on February 2, 2004


Wow, almost exactly two years. Seems like only yesterday.

Double po-- ah hell.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 9:11 PM on February 2, 2004


Full disclosure: I work at the ACLU, and very closely to this case. I'm not an attorney, but I'd say I know a bit more about this stuff than the average person, and a LOT about this particular case.

I have a major problem with gd779's statement here:

Moreover, the ACLU explicitly argued that it was a constitutional right for any child age 13 and older to consent to have sex with anyone. It's not like either side was being totally reasonable here.

The ACLU did no such thing. Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline has been saying this, supporting it with a few words lifted wildly out of context from one footnote out of the ACLU's brief. Have you read the actual briefs, or are you relying on what Kline has been saying in the media about this case? Let's keep in mind that Kline is the same guy who basically argued that the state should let heterosexual statuatory rapists off so much more easily because they may end up marrying their victims.

gd779, I'd love it if you could show us where, in either of the ACLU's briefs in this rehearing, this supposed argument about the 13-year-olds comes from? Just in case you never read them, here they are:

ACLU's opening brief on the rehearing of Kansas v. Limon

ACLU's reply brief on rehearing of Kansas v. Limon
posted by apollonia6 at 10:11 PM on February 2, 2004


Actually, a serial statutory rapist probably would get the 17 years in jail.

Is that so? Here's one that got 89 months and a European book tour.

Besides, I find anyone classifying an 18-year old a "serial statutory rapist" highly problematic if the the so-called "crime" involved a consensual act involving two people past the age of puberty.

However, it is true that an 18 year old in Matthew Limon's position, who had consensual heterosexual sex with someone four years younger than him, would probably only get 15 months in jail, because of the specific exclusion the legislature carved out.

Which is precisely what's wrong with the case? If justice is served by granting a heterosexual only 15 months, then a homosexual should get no more than 15 months as well. Fair is fair. Gd779, given your misreadings of Matt Limon's prior offenses and the ACLU's position in the case, I find your interpretation a wee bit suspect.
posted by jonp72 at 11:29 PM on February 2, 2004


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