Statutory Rape Victim Ordered To Pay Child Support
SAN FRANCISCO — He was a 15-year-old kid with all the usual teenage sexual passions.
She was his neighbor--a 34-year-old mom, later convicted of statutory rape for engaging him in a romantic tryst that resulted in her getting pregnant.
But in a case that sets the term "deadbeat dad" on its ear, a California appeals court has ruled that the young man from San Luis Obispo, identified only as "Nathaniel J." in court records, is responsible for paying child support for the baby born of the illegal union.
The ruling by the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles--the first decision of its kind in California--leads to a number of sticky societal questions, ranging from whether girls and boys should be treated differently in cases of statutory rape to the fairness of government's increasingly aggressive pursuit of child-support payments.
"This is a really bizarre case," said Mary Ann Mason, a social-welfare professor at the University of California at Berkeley who specializes in societal legal issues. "It seems unfair that he was taken advantage of, and then he gets prosecuted for child support. He's considered a victim on one hand and a perpetrator on the other."
County and state authorities, rather than the mother, have pursued the case, seeking compensation for welfare payments the infant girl has been receiving since her birth in January 1995.
Attorneys from the state attorney general's office, which represented the state in the appeal, say the teenager should be responsible for the child because he indicated he was a willing sexual partner.
"Our point of view is that the newborn is the victim in these matters," said Carol Ann White, a lawyer who heads the attorney general's child-support-enforcement unit. "No matter what the circumstances of their conception, babies deserve to have two parents.
"And this was a consensual relationship," she added.
The youth, now 18, won't be required to pay until he has income, said Deputy Atty. Gen. Mary Roth, who handled the case.
"Say he makes $800 a month working at Burger King," Roth said. "He'll probably be expected to pay $200 a month to reimburse" the welfare program.
Under state law, the boy's parents are not responsible for child support for their granddaughter.
The case began in 1994, with a two-week affair between the boy and the unmarried woman, listed in court records as Ricci Jones.
According to court records, Jones and the teenager discussed having sex in advance and made a clear decision to do it. They had intercourse approximately five times, in what the boy later told police investigators was "a mutually agreeable act."
Neither Jones nor the teenager could be reached for comment.
The matter did not become a court case until after their daughter was born on Jan. 20, 1995, and Jones began receiving welfare on the daughter's behalf. Under federal guidelines, counties must make an effort to determine the identity of the father of any child on welfare and collect child support from him to offset the welfare payments.
That's exactly what San Luis Obispo County did.
As soon as county officials realized the baby's father was a minor, they filed statutory-rape charges against Jones, which resulted in a conviction but no jail time. Almost simultaneously, they sought to have the young father registered as being responsible for child support.
After being ordered to pay by Superior Court, "Nathaniel J." and his parents appealed the decision, arguing that a child who was the victim of sexual exploitation by an adult should not be penalized for the consequences of the exploitation.
But the appeals court disagreed.
"Victims have rights. Here, the victim also has responsibilities," said the opinion, written by Judge Arthur Gilbert. He cited cases from other states in which minors were deemed responsible for child support if they had consented to sex with an adult.
"We conclude he is liable for child support."
Clearly, said Roth, if a teenage boy got a teenage girl pregnant, no one would question the state for holding him responsible. She said the teenager's testimony made it clear he had known what he was doing and agreed to it.
"I guess he thought he was a man then," she said. "Now, he prefers to be considered a child."
But Fred Hayward, founder of the Sacramento-based group Men's Rights Inc., said the court was setting a horrible double standard.
"This is victimizing the victim," he said. "The law is based on the premise that a 15-year-old is too young to give his consent to anything. Yet he gets a 34-year-old woman pregnant, and suddenly he's old enough to be responsible."
Professor Mason said the case adds several twists to traditional family law.
"This shows two new directions in the law that are just now coming into play," she said. "One is that the state is going after young dads--and it isn't necessarily using much discretion. The other is that women are being prosecuted for statutory rape, which never would have happened two or three years ago."
Until 1994, the state's statutory-rape law didn't even apply to boys; only adults who had sex with young girls could be prosecuted. The legislature changed the law two years ago, but prosecutions of women are rare, Mason said.
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Boy's parents sue to get his baby from mom, 21
LANCASTER, Ohio --- A Pickerington couple and their son are fighting for custody of a baby born to a Lancaster woman charged with having unlawful sex with the boy, who was 15 at the time of conception.
A paternity test shows that the teen is the father of the baby born April 7 to Jane C. Crane, who was 19 when she became pregnant. Now, a judge has ordered him to pay $50 a month in child support and set visitation at seven hours a week.
Crane, meanwhile, faces criminal charges. A Fairfield County grand jury indicted her last month on two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, a fourth-degree felony. Conviction carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison and a requirement to register as a sex offender for 25 years.
Crane is living with the baby and her family in Lancaster.
The boy's parents say they can provide a better upbringing for the baby than Crane can. Her household includes her stepfather, David L. Jacobs, who was convicted of domestic violence last year for hitting, choking and pointing a gun at Crane's 17-year-old sister and was placed on two years' probation, court records show.
"We don't want to have our granddaughter abused by these people," the boy's father said. "We are trying to do the right thing.
"The child support was the icing on the cake. I couldn't believe that our son has to pay child support to his abuser."
The Dispatch does not identify victims of sexual abuse.
Crane is scheduled for a pretrial conference before Common Pleas Judge Richard E. Berens on Aug. 21. A hearing and a status conference in the custody dispute are scheduled for next month before Domestic Relations Judge Kathy S. Mowry.
Crane, now 21, is not a suitable custodial parent in part because she may have committed a felony by having sexual intercourse with a minor younger than 16, the boy's parents argue in court papers seeking custody.
Crane declined to comment. She is free on a $5,000 recognizance bond pending trial. Her attorney, Sandra Davis, did not return calls. Lawyer Jennifer Strunk, the court-appointed guardian ad litem representing the baby's interests, said through a spokesman that she could not comment.
That a 19-year-old woman had sex with a 15-year-old boy might seem like no big deal to some, but it is a serious charge, said Assistant Prosecutor Julia Dillon.
It makes no difference that it is an adult female charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a minor boy rather than the more common instance of an adult male charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a minor girl.
"It is an age and maturity issue, not a gender issue," Dillon said. "He's a young boy coming into his own, being taken advantage of by an adult."
There could yet be a plea agreement. "I have made what I consider to be a reasonable offer, but I have not received a response," she said.
The incident has had lasting affects on the boy, now 16, his mother said.
"He has nightmares, he is stressed out," she said. "He is a father, even though it was a crime for him to be a father. His life is changed forever."
Crane got to know the family while she worked at a local movie theater with the boy's older sister. When Crane said that her stepfather was abusive, his family allowed her to move in with them.
The boy's sister later bought her own home and Crane moved in with her. It was there last summer that Crane had sex with their son at least twice, his parents said.
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Legally Obscene: Rape, Statutory Rape, and Child Support