Is the Texas justice system simply a crapshoot? Is there still an enormous double standard when it comes to sex crimes? Or has Jerry Sandusky cast a huge shadow over future sentences for all those convicted of sex crimes against children?
A while back we introduced you to the tale of Clifton Grasham-Reeves, an actor and former English teacher at a Waco charter school. Grasham-Reeves was accused of seducing a 16-year-old girl he met while the two worked on a community theater play, and of having sex with her approximately four times. He was charged with four counts of sexual assault of a child and two counts of indecency with a child by contact.
Last week, just as the nation was gripped in the maw of the Penn State pedophilia scandal, the gavel came down on Grasham-Reeves. And man did that wooden mallet come down hard. Grasham-Reeves, a married father of an infant boy, was convicted. Despite a tearful plea for leniency, and a hitherto-clean criminal record, he was sentenced to 90 years behind bars. (The jury recommended the max 20 years on each count of sexual assault of a child and five years for the indecency charges; the judge accepted their advice and then ordered the sentences stacked.)
Right now Grasham-Reeves's parole officer is probably not even a twinkle in anyone's eye. He will not become eligible for parole until 2056. He will be 77 years old.
Earlier this month, 45 miles from Waco down I-35 in Belton, 31-year-old former teacher Kaci Suzanne Pomerenke was in court on similar charges.
She pleaded guilty to having an improper relationship with a 14-year-old student. It's a lesser charge, but she did pretty much the same thing. Specifically, she confessed that she had sex with the boy in her car on three different occasions.
Three days in jail and seven years probation. Should he live to be 121 and serve out all his time, Grasham-Reeves will be punished ten thousand times more severely. (We're aware that doesn't account for Pomerenke's probation, which can be onerous but beats prison any day.)
Now, there are some mitigating factors. Grasham-Reeves once worked for CPS, and a woman who trained him there testified at his trial that she had to warn him from spending too much time alone with a ten-year-old girl, as she believed that an inappropriate bond was forming between the two. (Investigators have interviewed all the children Grasham-Reeves worked with during his nine months at the agency and none said that he abused them.)
Also, it was previously reported that Grasham-Reeves gave his victim alcohol and told her to sneak out her window and come over while his wife was away. Those facts make him seem even more coercive and more of a sleaze.
Also, whereas Pomerenke confessed to everything and pleaded guilty, Grasham-Reeves took his case to trial and lost. He might well have been offered a deal at some point and instead rolled the dice and come up snake-eyes.
But still -- 90 years on a first offense?
Years ago I watched famed rapper Carlos Coy, a.k.a. South Park Mexican, get half that much time after he was convicted of sexually assaulting a nine-year-old girl. During the punishment phase, the prosecution brought forth at least five other minors who claimed to have had sex with SPM, and one of them had very compelling evidence in the form of a genetically-certified little South Park Mexican Jr.
So once again, was Grasham-Reeves's sentence just the luck of the draw, a sexual double standard, or should Grasham-Reeves be cursing Jerry Sandusky's name for all eternity?