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Regional Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 21, 2006


Post-prison
Convicted sex offender reveals life

By Saranac Hale Spencer

After the lunch-time rush, when the clanging and clatter of sturdy diner dishware had quieted, a man convicted of molesting his wife’s two children sat in a window booth, sipping on a cup of pale coffee.

Out of prison since 2004, he has yet to find a job, he told The Enterprise from the other side of the table. Although he has two college degrees, he says that employers don’t call him back when they hear about his crime.

"How do you reveal the biggest blunder of your life"" he said of telling employers about his crime. "There’s a lot of shame around what I did."

During a Dec. 13 special legislative session, Governor George Pataki tried to push through a controversial bill that would commit sex offenders to mental hospitals after they have served their prison time, as The Enterprise reported earlier. The bill that he introduced to the state Senate passed in January, but did not pass the Assembly last week. The Assembly had passed its own bill on civil commitment in January. The Senate and Assembly have not yet been able to iron out the differences in their bills.

The sex offender The Enterprise interviewed said that the most important thing for offenders who are getting out of prison is a stable structure. "I don’t mean prison, I don’t mean a psyche center," he said. What they need is a place to live, a support network, and a job, he said.

A short, plump man in his late forties, he’s held menial jobs for most of his life, he said. After graduating from high school in 1976, he joined the Army, following in his father’s footsteps and breaking his mother’s heart. Serving as a combat engineer in Germany, he learned to drink like a fish, he said, but he’s been sober for 12 years.

Later, he cleaned toilets at the Veterans Affairs Hospital and worked the night shift at a sub shop. He got a degree in psychology while he was in prison and a computer-programming degree since he’s been out; he’d like to get a job that he’s qualified for. He likes the logic of programming and the satisfaction that comes with creating something, but, he said, "I have an old habit of being an underachiever."

In the mid-1980’s, having gotten his life back together after leaving the service in 1980 and coping with a major break-up, he met a woman who had two children in foster care. The couple worked together at a sub shop and partied together on the weekends.

"I helped her get her life together; she helped me out," he said. "It was like we needed each other."

They married in 1989 and got her kids out of the foster-care system. The marriage started off well, he said; they lived as a family in her trailer. Then the couple got into financial trouble and argued over how to raise the kids.

"I was having sex all the time. I was happy with my wife," he said of his marriage, during the time he began molesting her kids. "It was more of a control issue."

In the winter of 1992, he began molesting his wife’s son. "Tucking him into bed one day, my hand slipped under his waistband and played with him," he said. "It grew from there." The boy was seven at the time, a year older than his sister.

Three months later, when the daughter got out of the shower sooner than expected, she saw her stepfather molesting her brother. For the next six months, he molested both of his stepchildren. In February of 1993, he said, "All of the shit hit the fan."

The daughter had gone to her school nurse and said that she just wanted it to stop. "I think she was just being a brat," he said, adding that she was manipulative. He said that he never forced them to do anything; if they had ever said "no," he would stop.

"They took the kids that day. That was the last she had with them," he said of his wife. "She never did want [her daughter] after that."

On May 12, 1994, he was convicted of first-degree sodomy, but, for years afterward, his wife believed that he was innocent, he said. "I was just a scared rabbit and I said she was lying" he said of telling his wife that her daughter had lied.

In 1997, his wife left him, and the couple divorced in 2003, as he neared the end of his prison term.

In some ways, he said, it’s harder being out of prison than it was being in, which is something that he’s really noticed since he started looking for a job. Now that he’s out, he said, he doesn’t go anywhere without a witness for fear of false accusations. Some of his neighbors have been very supportive of him, he said, but he’s had problems with one neighbor who has lodged false complaints against him.

He likened prison life to living in a dorm with more restrictions. It was harder for him if other inmates knew why he was serving time, he said. Sometimes he would say that he was in for robbery or drunk driving.

"If you’ve killed someone, you’re it, you’re the guy," he said of the unofficial hierarchy among inmates. "You can be whatever you want in prison."

While he was in prison, he said, he began to grapple with his homosexuality. He’s always felt more comfortable with men, he said, but he kept that in the closet and pursued women. Raised in a Catholic family where appearances mattered, he felt that being gay wasn’t an option, he said. Now, he says, he considers himself bisexual and would like to date men.

"This is who I am. I committed a crime for this," he said. "I’m not going to fight it."

As a child, he said, he had been molested by a neighbor. The two had been caught by his grandmother. He doesn’t remember much of what happened; it was before he was in fifth grade. "It wasn’t talked about," he said. "It was squelched."

Noting some of his mother’s emotional problems and eccentricities, he said, "I would not be surprised to find out that she was raped or molested."

"There is a cycle," he said of sexual abuse through generations. "I’m hoping that they don’t perpetuate it."

Editor’s note: The Enterprise identifies level 2 and 3 sex offenders who live in our coverage area — Guilderland, New Scotland, and the Hilltowns — to inform our readers. This sex offender lives outside of Albany County and we are withholding his name to tell his story in detail.


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