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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Teenage Butt-Grabbing Case Ignites National and International Furor

The Paddleton Middle School butt-grabbing incident, which I have been covering for the last several days here and here, has sparked a national and internatinal outcry from online readers and the public at large.

Here's an excerpt of the piece that appeared today on the Oregonian's website:

Two McMinnville middle-schoolers facing sex abuse charges for spanking girls in the hallway probably will not do jail time or be required to register as sex offenders, the Yamhill County district attorney said Monday as the case against the boys grew into a media sensation.

The comments from Bradley Berry outraged the parents of the two 13-year-olds, Ryan Cornelison and Cory Mashburn, who with their lawyers were deluged with calls from ABC, CNN, Fox, Court TV and radio stations across the country a day after a story about the prosecution appeared in The Sunday Oregonian.

Until now, Berry has declined to discuss specifics of the case or explain why it merits criminal charges. After spending most of Monday fielding complaints, however, he elaborated for the first time.

"From our perspective and the perspective of the victims, this was not just horseplay," Berry told The Oregonian. "People may disagree, and I understand that."

Based on his experience in similar cases, Berry said it's unlikely the boys, if convicted, would be sentenced for the maximum jail time for each of the counts. "That type of sentence has never been imposed in my county or in any county that I know of for these types of offenses," he said.

Berry said he, too, was inundated with calls and e-mails from readers who complained that charging the boys with 10 counts of sex abuse and harassment was an overreaction, as their parents maintain. Lawyers for the boys say each count could bring a year in confinement and mandatory registration as sex offenders.

Berry said a judge could lift the registration requirement after it was imposed. "These youths can petition the court relatively quickly for relief from that," he said.

The boys' families said they were furious at what appeared to be backpedaling on Berry's part.

"It makes us angry that they can overcharge . . . and make us think this could happen," said Tracie Mashburn, Cory's mother. "Why would they do that and threaten us with that if they're not going to do it?"

"He's just doing damage control," added Joe Cornelison, Ryan's father. "I want to ask Brad Berry, what kind of due process is this?"

(Thanks goes to Radley Balko who cross-posted this on his blog and his Reason blog.)