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April 01, 2007

The fine line between creepy and criminal

I'm your wicked Uncle Ernie; I'm glad you won't see or hear me, As I fiddle about, fiddle about, fiddle about. Your mother left me here to mind you, And I'm doing exactly what I bleedin' well want to, Fiddling about, fiddling about, fiddle about.

From "Tommy" by The Who

Several years ago, husband Eric and I were enjoying a relaxing day at the beach. Warm sun, cooling breeze off the ocean, moderate crowds of people sunning, swimming, jogging. A happy group of kids were not too far from us. At the waterline they had built a rambling sand castle and were busy trying to dig moats to keep the waves from washing it away. Each foaming reach of the Pacific would have them squeeling and diving to their knees to scoop wet sand out of trenches and onto haphazard battlements.

It was Eric who first noticed the guy. Middle-aged, sunglasses, shorts, shirt, towel folded over his forearm, a backpack hanging from one shoulder, he paced and paused a few yards from the kids, between them and the ocean. His behavior became noticeable not because he was watching them, but because he seemed to be trying not to be noticed watching them. He'd gaze out over the ocean, shifting from foot to foot, then take surreptitious looks over his shoulder.

Immediately suspicious, Eric and I watched him closely.

That's when we noticed the camera.

The guy held it just under his towel. He'd move to a spot, then turn to momentarily face the kids. Out would come the camera, shoot, back under the towel, and he'd turn back to the ocean and take a few steps.

Alarmed, we watched this creepy behavior repeat itself a couple more times and also noticed he seemed to be concentrating his camera shots at one energetic eight-year old boy bent over the castle moat shouting encouragement to his friends rebuilding the castle.

What to do? It was a public place and he wasn't annoying the kids. Infact, they were oblivious to him. Trying to decide on a course of action, he finally looked around and saw us staring at him. He scurried off down the beach and we flagged down a lifeguard and pointed him out.

Unfortunately, there was nothing any of us could do. The guy didn't do anything illegal. The best that could be done was that the lifeguard saw him and then radioed his description and behavior to all the other stations up and down the beach.

Creepy, but not criminal. Yet.

I was reminded of this by this report (related video) of a website run by an admitted pedophile aimed at helping other pedophiles engage in the same legal, but creepy, behavior my husband and I witnessed.

The man who runs it, 45-year-old Jack McClellan, has never been convicted of a sex crime, which means he can attend any family-friendly events where children are present, and take all the pictures he wants for his Web site. He also lives close to a school bus stop.

McClellan says his purpose is to promote association, friendship and legal, consensual hugging and cuddling between men and pre-pubescent girls. He admitted to FOX News that his "age of attraction" is between 3 and 11 years old. ...

McClellan wants to bring pedophiles out of the closet and give them a way to get some relief, by going out and being around little girls. He suggests a number of places, such as plays at elementary schools, parks, swimming pools and libraries. ...

McClellan said that for pedophiles, just being around children is almost like a "legal high" that makes them happy. ...

"I know it sounds kind of crazy, but there's kind of a code of ethics that these pedophiles have developed and what it is ... the contact has to be completely consensual, no coercion, if you're going to do it," McClellan said.

I'm unfamiliar with Oregon child molestation statutes; however, McClellan is dead wrong if he thinks "consensual cuddling" would be a legitimate defense in California. California Penal Code 288(a) reads:
Any person who willfully and lewdly commits any lewd or lascivious act, including any of the acts constituting other crimes provided for in Part 1, upon or with the body, or any part or member thereof, of a child who is under the age of 14 years, with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of that person or the child, is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for three, six, or eight years.
Just like a footfetish who uses a ruse to touch women's feet, so a pedophile who admits he touches a child - even a touch that would under other circumstances be considered totally innocent - to become aroused has committed child molestation.

Impossible? No, just difficult. Consider the dramatic case of Eric Olsen

ONTARIO - A 28-year-old substitute teacher arrested Thursday on suspicion of molesting a 10-year-old girl may have molested more than 100 children over the past three years. ...

Police began their investigation on June 13 after a student reported that Olsen had inappropriately touched a 10-year-old female student. That student reported the incident to a staff member and the police were contacted. The alleged lewd acts occurred at Berlyn Elementary in the Ontario/Montclair School District.

The victim told investigators that Olsen touched her inappropriately on several occasions, the police statement said. During one incident, Olsen is alleged to have used force to touch the victim.

Olsen claims to have molested between 100 and 200 female children over a three-year time period, police said.

Olsen may have molested the other children while he was employed at various school districts within the Inland Empire.

Investigators said they do not believe Olsen is making false claims on the number of children he admitted to molesting "because of the way he explained it to us," Galindo said.

That's because Olsen "explained it" as touching for his own arousal and that touching was not the kind of touching of genitals we tend to think of when we hear the term "child molestation."

Olsen recently plead to the court over the DA's objection.

Detectives initially said the Ontario man may have molested more than 100 students, but only six counts stuck.

Most of the allegations involved subtle sexual situations, such as Olsen placing first-grade girls on his lap inside classrooms. Olsen, however, confessed that such contact sexually aroused him, which is all that is necessary to sustain a molestation charge.

Olsen's no contest plea on Friday was not part of a plea bargain with prosecutors. Rather, he pleaded no contest to the charges in exchange for a promise from the judge of a sentence of no more than five years behind bars.

Hopefully Olsen will spend five years away from children. He will have to register as a sex offender and his days of having kids on his lap or rubbing their shoulders are over for good.

The Seattle neighborhood where McClellan lives is understandably very upset. A behavior can be "legal", but a community does not have to tolerate it. McClellan is arrogant enough with this pro-pedophilia agenda to slip up somewhere. In the mean time, they can keep tabs on him, shun him and warn their kids about creepy "Uncle Jack".

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Posted by Darleen at April 1, 2007 09:10 AM


This perversion can only disgust a normal person. I don't think people like him will ever get it. Chances are he has molested, and not been caught yet. Most don't just do it one time - they are repeat offenders.

Posted by: Greta at April 1, 2007 11:31 AM

So when did Jack McClellan say "cuddling" was for the purpose of sexual arousal?

Everything he has done so far is legal in the state of Oregon. Cuddling is legal everywhere. So is love and affection.

In a major study on the subject, about 20-25% of the male college population self-admitted to being sexually attracted to prepubescent people. Do you think all of them are going to act on these attractions?

They do not.

Study some real research before you mouth off what Fox news has decided will scare you into voting for a Christian Right Wing Taliban wannebe will ya?

Posted by: PedophileExpert at April 1, 2007 09:54 PM

OK, that article was pretty creepy, but the comment from "pedophile expert" made it really, really creepy.

Posted by: V the K at April 2, 2007 05:40 AM

I think he needs to drop the word "expert" from his name. For two reasons.

Posted by: Frank IBC at April 2, 2007 05:54 AM

I think he just needs to reverse the order of the words in his nic ... for the sake of accuracy.

Posted by: V the K at April 2, 2007 06:00 AM

Can't believe I'm even writing this....

I am _very_ cautious of any laws that basically amount to punishing "thought crime". Primarily this applies to Hate Crime laws -- where a crime has a separate additional category tacked on because of what you were thinking at the time you... say... murder somebody. I say murder is the crime, and short of what might be considered "extenuating circumstances", the thought process doesn't really matter. Whether you killed him for his wallet or because he stole your girlfriend or because he was the wrong race, it's murder. Have a nice prison term.


There are people who are screwed up in the head and are sexually attracted to children. Is it automatically a crime if the hug a little kid? Even if they like it for reasons beyond simple affection?

Let me put it another way. Any guy reading this can remember what it's like to be a hormonal teenager. So... you're 17 years old and a female (platonic) friend hugs you. I don't care how non-sexual the hug is, 17-year-old you is _very_ aware that there's a pair of breasts pressed into your chest... and that's kinda nice -- for reasons entirely beyond getting a hug from a friend. Does that make the hug somehow wrong?

Admittedly this is a _very_ fine line I'm making. A person who goes around pursuing hugs and such from little kids specifically _for_ the turn on, that's something to keep a close eye on...


(and I am not a psychologist...)

If someone who is screwed up in this way can "vent" a bit by hugging kids, _and it doesn't hurt the kids_, then who is hurt here? Do you really punish somebody for their involuntary thought process?

This is potentially _more_ of a though crime than the murder example above, because in that case a clear cut crime is actually being committed, but here there is (possibly) not. The _instant_ the person crosses the line into the criminal, you go after them for the criminal act; I hesitate to automatically assume that they will, however.

Whether pedophiles (as opposed to "molesters") are born the way they are or "screwed up" by external forces, the law shouldn't punish them simply for existing. It should punish them, as it would anybody else, for _acting_ in ways that harm others.

Note that in the California law you cite, it must be a "lewd or lascivious act" _plus intent_, which means that it must be and act considered "lewd or lascivious" _independently of intent_, plus the intent, to be criminal.

I'm almost afraid to hit "Submit" on this one, but here goes....

Posted by: Stephen Rider at April 2, 2007 12:20 PM


You make very valid points. I don't support "hate" crimes, either.

I think the confusion for most laypeople is not realizing that the law makes a distinction between intent and motive.

Indeed, a prosecuter is not legally compelled to offer any theory of motive or prove motive in a criminal trial. Intent is what s/he has to address and prove.

A lot of pedophiles use ostensibly "innocent" hugging in order to "groom" their victims. There is a long "courtship" so they can gain the trust of the child ...which is why they seek employment that will put them in contact with children. Teacher, coach, Scout leader, ice cream truck driver, etc. They cultivate a "normal" public persona; indeed, their neighbors may be shocked to find out the guy next door with the well maintained yard, who always buys cookies from kids' fundraisers, who attends church regularly and "isn't it sad he's not married, he'd make a great husband" is busted for having 10,000 kiddie porn images on his 'puter and a diary of all his sexual predations of local kids. "But he was such a nice, normal guy!"

A pedophile who "grooms" a kid with the intent to arouse himself and establish a relationship with a pre-pubscent kid has crossed the line into child molestation.

Posted by: Darleen at April 2, 2007 07:15 PM

In the case of a guy creeping around taking pictures of your children without your permission trust your instincts (but act within the law) You absolutely have to make a complaint to the police, if you feel suitably uncomfortable with it. The letter of the law may state that there is nothing wrong with creepy behaviour, but in its application the law has a very sensible flexibility such that repeated reports of suspicious activity will amount in a prosecution on some level, and repeated prosecutions would result in suitably stiffer sentences.

Posted by: mars at April 3, 2007 08:33 PM