Friday, May 19, 2017


14-year-old could face life as sex offender for sex with 12-year-old girlfriend

By Brian Rogers

Houston Chronicle
May 18, 2017

A 14-year-old junior high student is facing the possibility of life as a registered sex offender after being arrested for having sex with his 12-year-old girlfriend, according to his attorney.

The teen, who was in seventh grade, is charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child. His girlfriend was a sixth-grader at the time.

"He had consensual sex with his little girlfriend and he loved her. They were boyfriend-girlfriend," the teen's mother told the Chronicle. "And because he turned 14, they want to make him a sex offender, put him on the registry with pedophiles and child molesters—really sick and dangerous people."

The law carves out a defense for juveniles having consensual sex with someone within three years of their age, sometimes called a "Romeo and Juliet" rule, which would allow a 17-year-old to legally have sex with a 14-year-old.

But in Texas that does not apply if one of the parties is under 14.

"The idea that a 14-year-old who has sex with a person just a little bit younger then him or her would be treated as the worst of the worst in our society and placed on the sex offender registry
is really sick," said the teen's attorney, Joseph Gutheinz. He spoke about the case on the condition that his client not be identified.

The Harris County District Attorney's Office did not return calls for comment.

The case illustrates the gray area of criminal responsibility for teens having sex before they are legally able to consent at the age of 17.

Gutheinz said the injustice is that the same 14-year-old who is now a defendant, would not have been charged if the teens were the same age. And he would be considered the victim if the other person was 18 or older, he said.

"If he has sex with someone who is younger by just days but is still 13 years old, he could be charged with one of the most serious offenses we have," he said. "It just blows my mind."

He said the discrepancy thwarts the intent of the law.

"It defeats the whole purpose of the Romeo and Juliet defense where you have two people relatively close in age and maturity," he said. "You would think the law would be more sympathetic as you go younger, because both parties are immature."

The teen's mother said her family "is going through hell."

"Because he was 14 by two months, they want to ruin his life," she said. "What kind of life is he going to have if he's a sex offender?"

Experts said charges being filed for a consensual sexual relationship between minors is not unusual in Harris County, even for teens and tweens.

"I had that exact fact pattern that I fought for a year," said Jackie Stewart Gravois, an attorney with the Harris County Public Defender's Office. "They ended up dismissing it because, ultimately, everyone agreed it was a consensual act."

In her case, the two students were also in junior high and he was 14 and she was 12. After prosecutors were assured that there was no violence or threat of force, it was dismissed.

She said similar cases seem to be on the rise over the past few years.

Gravois was not familiar with the teen's legal battle and spoke generally about those types of cases.

"Usually, if the prosecutors can prove that it was consensual and it was not forced in any way, they typically don't file these cases or they end up dismissing them," she said. "That's going to be up to the discretion of the prosecutor."

She noted that Harris County's juvenile judges have wide discretion over whether a teen will have to register as a sex offender.

"Very rarely do the juvenile judges in Harris County force anyone to register," she said. "They usually delay it and send them to sex offender treatment and then make a decision."

Jay Jenkins, an attorney for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, which is pushing to raise the age of criminal responsibility in Texas, has studied prosecution disparities because of age.

He said he is aware of several criminal cases filed against Houston teens accused of having sex with tweens.

"That's the arbitrary nature of our sexual offense laws," he said. "There's very little rationality to those laws."

EDITOR’S NOTE: These two are too immature to be in love like a couple of adults, but he was hot, got her hot, and they went on to trot. For that he should face charges and possibly have to register as a sex offender? Come on, give me a break!

1 comment:

bob walsh said...

That law can be like that some times. Great in theory, but in actual practice sometimes not particularly reasonable.