11.12.08

Williamson County Justice?

Posted in Commentary, Criminal Justice, Uncategorized, Williamson County at 12:17 pm by wcnews

Needless to say EOW - as does the traditional media in and around Williamson County - gets contacted on a regular basis by people who have had issues with the justice system in Williamson County. Two stories that have been reported on in the last day highlight some of the issues with the justice system in Williamson County.

Georgetown police chief’s daughter gets probation for drug charge.

State District Judge Ken Anderson accepted the plea deal for the cocaine charge of Georgetown Police Chief David Morgan’s daughter and sentenced her to five years of probation and a $2,500 fine.

Samantha Morgan, 18, pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine in September. In addition to her probation, Samantha Morgan will serve 120 hours of community service, will be under house arrest and will have a curfew of 11 p.m. for the next 90 days.

Before accepting the deal, Anderson had ordered a pre-sentence report, which said Samantha Morgan tested positive for marijuana. On Oct. 15, Anderson ordered Morgan, who had been free on bond, to be jailed until the sentencing hearing today.

This story that Jim Swift at KXAN has been following about teen sex laws in Texas that revolves around a case in Williamson County, Texas teenage sex laws under fire.

He was 17. He said he had no idea she was 13. He said she told him she was 15. So when they went to bed, it never occurred to him he was violating his state’s laws regarding teenage sex. It also never occurred to him he should ask the girl for an ID. Her mother found out and she took the news hard. She contacted police. The police filed charges. Considerable legal wrangling ensued. The kid spent parts of two years in the Williamson County jail. Finally, a state district judge there laid down the law: Jean Ponzanelli was headed to prison for three years. His partner was considered a victim. She was also considered a victim when another older man also went to prison, also for having consensual sex with her. She remains free.

It’s not just Texas but around the nation that these types of “teen sex” crimes have got swept up in the heinous crime of child molestation.

The legal cases not only imprisoned the teenagers, they often destroyed the families of those convicted. In some cases, after leaving prison, the young men married their partners, had children with them, and lived a normal life, except for the fact that they were listed on a state Sex Offender Registry. That creates enormous roadblocks to them finding a job, locating a place to live, taking their own kids to parks and other places where children gather.

“The 20-year-old man who has had consensual sexual activity with his 16-year-old girlfriend has broken the law,” said Texas Voices chair Mary Sue Molnar. “But, his offense is much different than 60-year-old Uncle Joe who has molested his six year-old niece. There’s a huge difference here, a huge difference. The law does not differentiate.”

So Molnar, Fewell and hundreds of others are working with lawmakers in search of common sense reforms. In Texas, some changes being talked about include:

  • Reducing charges in such cases to the misdemeanor crime of “sexual misconduct.”
  • Dropping the requirement for listing those convicted on the Texas Sex Offender Registry.
  • Removing those already placed on the list.
  • Designing treatment programs for them that are separate from those conducted for hard-core offenders.

Lawmakers return to Austin in January. What will they do? Clearly there is pressure to appear “tough on crime,” especially sexual crime. Fewell, now a member of Texas Voices, admits to moments of despair. Choking back tears, she said, “After Jean, you know, was sentenced, and then after, you know, he was transported, it was kind of hard, because I kind of thought like, this was a hopeless cause, that we’re not going to make a difference. And, even my daughter told me, she says, ‘You know, Mom, you can fight ’til the day you die and they’re not going to change the law.’ I told my daughter I’ll die trying.”

The law should be fixed to where the punishment for this crime does not ruin someone’s life. KXAN has a message board setup for this story here.

3 Comments »

  1. stand4character said,

    November 13, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    The injustice in the teen sex case is magnified when compared to the outcome in the cases against Roger Dale Proctor, former Williamson County Constable, and former Georgetown Police Officer, Jimmy Fennell. Roger Dale Proctor fondled his step daughter for years starting when she was age 8. Proctor’s plea agreement, signed 5/1/2007 reguired him turn in his badge, 5 years probation with deferred adjudication on ONE count of indecency with a child by sexual contact. He does have to register as a sex offender, but only until 2022. (Ponzanelli signed his plea 5/1/2007 also but would have been required to register until 2027 if not deported.) Proctor’s plea required Proctor to serve 30 days jail time. Judge Carnes waived the Proctor’s jail time. (Ponzanelli’s initial plea required 180 days jail tme which he served every single day of.)

    And, we have Jimmy Fennell who will be eligible for parole by 2012 and will not be made to register as a sex offender.

    Ponzanelli’s case isn’t an isolated case. There are many others just like Ponzanelli from Williamson County either on the registry, in the county jail, or in prison. Many of those boys will be made to register as a sex offender for LIFE. Some of the “victims” in these cases have been “victims” in similar cases.

  2. Eye on Williamson » A good bill passed the house yesterday said,

    May 7, 2009 at 9:01 am

    […] an issue that EOW posted about last November, (Williamson County Justice?), regarding reforming “teen sex” laws in Texas. Rep. Todd Smith (R-Euless) deserves […]

  3. Eye on Williamson » “He is no longer the chief nor will he be” said,

    May 13, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    […] the chief in Georgetown had issues, personal and professional, and now that the dust has settled, it’s been decided it’s time for […]

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