Tuesday, May 10, 2011

NY overturns Family Court decision to bar level 3 sex offender from his kids

James Colliton was a half-million dollar a year tax attorney with a Manhattan apartment and a home he shared with his wife and children in upstate Poughkeepsie, New York. Today, he is a convicted level-3 sex offender after pleading guilty to rape, among other charges, for patronizing teenage prostitutes who were pimped out by their mother according to prosecutors. Initially he took his family and fled to Canada, was arrested but released in Ontario, before finally being arrested again in Manhattan to face a 43-count indictment. By the time of his 2007 conviction, he had been in jail for 19 months and was sentenced to one year, time-served, in a plea deal that let him off the hook for a potential 30 years in prison. The mother of the teen girls had previously pleaded guilty to charges against her for pimping the girls out to Colliton.

In Plea Deal, Lawyer Admits Having Sex With Teenagers

Seem like a pretty open and shut case of a real creep who probably got off a lot easier than he should have. I mean, just getting a look at this guy's mug is almost enough to convict him. Tell me that doesn't look like the textbook pic of a pedophile.

Since his conviction he has gone from tax attorney to pro se litigant, suing everyone from American Express for revealing account information leading to his arrest, to his former employer for not paying him his bonus, to the Town of Poughkeepsie and Dutchess County for violating his Constitutional rights and rights to privacy while monitoring him as a registered sex offender. Now it appears as though he might have grounds to go after the county's Department of Social Services with the NY State Court of Appeals ruling in his favor against the Family Court and recommendations of DSS which forced him out of his home for the next three years after his conviction. According to the Poughkeepsie Journal...

The Dutchess County Department of Social Services filed neglect petitions against both parents alleging the father was an untreated level-three sex offender, deemed likely to reoffend, whose crimes involved young teens, and that the mother failed to protect the children from the father.

Enough to make your blood boil right? One article I linked above there they called him "the most ridiculous pro se litigant of all time." And I am sure much worse has been said about him. Certainly enough to piss off the average Joe or Jane to see a creep like this using his legal expertise in to start snagging up loopholes in order to sue various parties for hundreds of millions of dollars. You would think he would have been happy with getting such a lucky break at sentencing for his admitted crimes.

Well, if you know me, or as you get to know me, you will see that I like to play the devil's advocate a lot. I am not easily swayed by rhetoric and shock-value reporting. I don't have the same knee-jerk reactions as most people do to words like communist, terrorist, sex offender or pedophile. So I tried to think about this objectively. Should this man have been forced from his house and barred from his children simply because he was guilty of sex with a teenage girl for money?

Of course I understand that these girls were underage and what he did is indeed a crime, but I am not quite seeing the correlation that shows he would actually attack his own children. It's kind of like the assumption that homophobes always make when they find out a guy is queer. All the sudden the straight guys all think the queer guy is going to try to have sex with them. You see that assumption too when it comes to homosexuals interacting with children. Legal or not, homosexuality is still often seen as sexual deviancy, that the homosexual might be more inclined to molest children and therefore should not be allowed to adopt or work with kids. Even if there were data to support such a notion, there is certainly nothing that says all homosexuals are likely to attack children.

So just because he pled guilty to having sex with a minor, does not mean that he is likely to attack any and all minors, especially his own children.  If he had sex with a prostitute that was of legal age, would that be a sign that he was likely to proposition his children for sex when they became legal age of consent? Certainly not, yet that is same sort of logic which was applied to bar this man from his house and his kids.

Applied logic doesn't always pan out though in the real world. My gut was still telling me that this guy is a creep and his kids would be better off without him. I would certainly sleep better at night knowing that this guy was nowhere near kids, his own or otherwise. But then again I am conflicted between what my gut is telling me, and what my morals tell me. And my morals tell me this has nothing to do with how I sleep at night. My morals tell me that this has nothing to do with what my gut tells me "might" happen. My morals tell me that just because a man is guilty of one crime, I have no right to assume he is destined to be guilty of any crime my imagination conjures up.

Therefore, I must conclude that the judges in this case did in fact make the right decision in their ruling. A difficult decision on their part no doubt, and an unpopular ruling it is likely to be in the face of hyperbole and the public's utter contempt for sex offenders. Nonetheless, we see that they had statutory basis for their ruling.

...under New York's Family Court Act, they cited two findings that required them to determine neglect. The first is "proof of actual (or imminent danger of) physical, emotional, or mental impairment to the child." Second is the danger "must be a consequence of the parent's failure to exercise a minimum degree of parental care."

The court noted the statutory test is not best or ideal care for children, but a minimum degree.

So it does appear that the Department of Social Services did wrongfully separate this man from his family, falsely accusing both himself and his wife of neglect. And as much as I hate to admit it, he should be compensated for that. As this story begins to unravel, now we must consider too that perhaps his other lawsuits were not so frivolous as we had assumed. What if this man were not guilty of statutory rape? I think that perhaps me might actually give him more serious consideration. Which we should anyway. Just because someone is the perpetrator of a crime, no matter how heinous, that is no justification for others to commit crimes against him or to deny him his rights, lest one day we too are abused simply because we are not popular.

Digging a little deeper now, I am confronted by articles that paint a very different picture than what has been portrayed by the prosecution and in most media sources reporting on the case. What if this man really is not in fact guilty of the crimes he was convicted of? It would seem incredulous, unthinkable to even suggest such a thing. How dare I even doubt for a second that such a creep is not as guilty as sin. After all, he pled guilty, and so did the mother who pimped out those poor girls.

So let's go ahead and take a second look at that woman, who also pled guilty in a plea arrangement. How could a mother do such a thing to her daughters? Well, the case comes undone a little more as we pull at the loose ends as they begin to fray.

"The one that was prostituting my [now] 15-year-old daughter was my [21-year-old] daughter," the mother said in her sparse apartment in lower Manhattan. "She's the devil's child, period."

The mother said her vengeful child had been out to get her since she called ACS to report her daughter's boyfriend was abusing her granddaughter.

But it also appears the girls weren't just out to get the mother. According to another article, these young girls have lied about an awful lot in this case, even lying under oath to the grand jury. So what can we really believe? The window of reasonable doubt is suddenly wide open it appears, and perhaps James Colliton should never have pled guilty to what may have been false allegations from the start.

The older sister had alleged that her own relationship with Colliton began when she was 15. This is disputed however by a cousin of the sisters, identified only as "Shorty," who states that it was she who introduced the older sister to Colliton and that it had been three years later than claimed, when she was 18, a year older than the legal age for consent in New York State. If that is true, then one of the rape charges against Colliton goes right out the window. Plainly not guilty of statutory rape, even if guilty of patronizing a prostitute.

The younger girl has now admitted that she lied about her mother pimping her out, but maintains that she did in fact have sex with Colliton for money and gifts at the behest of her older sister.But that too must be met with the utmost skepticism at this point, considering how this whole case came about in the first place. The elder sister became pregnant by another man, but then began extorting Colliton until finally he demanded a DNA test be done. This is where the younger sister comes into the picture.

By some accounts, still needing cash, the older sister began offering up her younger sibling to Colliton. At first to clean his apartment in exchange for money, but eventually he is alleged to have begun paying in cash and gifts for sex with the younger girl for the next several months. By her own admission, the younger girl began extorting Colliton, threatening to have him arrested.

"I started threatening him that if he didn't give me money that I'd call the cops on him. I told him to give me whatever he could give me. I didn't want to have sex with him anymore," she said.

Maybe she never had sex with him in the first place. The older sister convinced the younger to report Colliton to ACS Administration for Children's Services) while implicating their mother becasue she was too strict on them. As if the credibility of these two girls was not already in serious doubt, we also have the case of José Mangual, the ex boyfriend of the mother of these two girls, who has come forward stating that he was the subject of false allegations made by these two sisters.

Mangual said he ran afoul of the older sister when he moved into the family's Manhattan home and the mother began paying more attention to him than to her kids.

The older girl, then 17, filed physical-abuse charges against the mother with the Administration for Children Service and allegedly persuaded her younger sister to accuse Mangual of sexual abuse.

Mangual said he was never arrested but hired a lawyer to defend himself in family court. He said that the girls' claim fell apart under questioning and that the case against him was dismissed. He and their mother later broke up.

Considering that Mangual came forward and the testimony of the girls had been all but disproven by their own public statements to press, it is hard to imagine how the charges against either the mother or Colliton still stood at all, much less why they might have elected to plead guilty to those charges. Of course, there are those who will maintain the naive notion that "only a guilty person would plead guilty." But sadly, that just is not the truth in this day and age of the presumption of guilt over innocence. The police and courts are too well trusted, while someone as loathsome as a child molester or an unfit mother will hardly be afforded any reasonable doubt even when only the weakest of evidence is brought against them.

So considering that. Considering the very real possibility that they may spend decades in prison for something they did not do, it is really little surprise that such a fear would get the better of someone. And that they would rather just plead guilty, go home and try to move on, leaving the whole sordid tale behind them the best they can. And that my friends, is a big reason why our system is broken. Because the accused, even with the best lawyers often, know full well that there is no such thing as the presumption of innocence anymore. How did that happen? How do we change that?

This article courtesy Station.6.Underground, used by permission, all rights reserved.


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