Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Your Child Molester is Worse Than Mine

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
June 17, 2010

In this corner, wearing the red trunks, Juan Gonzales, accused child molester and illegal immigrant. And in this corner, wearing the blue trunks, the Doña Ana tag team of convicted sex offenders Shawn Bohannon and Hector Montes.

And introducing our special guest referee, all the way from Massachusetts, Willie “The Furlough” Horton!

This is what the New Mexico gubernatorial race seems to have become — a battle in which Democrat Diane Denish and Republican Susana Martinez try to associate each other with people charged or convicted of ugly crimes against juveniles.

What’s next? “Your child molester is worse than my child molester”?

Meet the surrogates: This started last week when Martinez responded to a Denish campaign TV ad slamming her conviction rate as district attorney of the 3rd Judicial District in Doña Ana County.

So Martinez introduced us to Gonzales, who faces charges of molesting a 6-year-old girl in Albuquerque.

Gonzales had been accused of other sex crimes before he turned 18. Martinez’s ad says he was allowed to stay in the country because the state Children, Youth and Families Department had a policy against reporting juvenile criminals who are illegal immigrants to federal immigration authorities. The ad connects Gonzales to Denish because CYFD is part of the lieutenant governor’s “Children Cabinet.” This cabinet doesn’t actually have direct jurisdiction over CYFD policies, but what the heck?

This week, Denish responded with an ad introducing us to Bohannon and Montes, two baddies who Martinez prosecuted.

Bohannon was a Hatch Valley High School assistant football coach charged in 2005 with having sex with two high-school girls. He faced multiple counts of rape and criminal sexual contact with a minor. He eventually pleaded to one count of child abuse and 14 counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and was sentenced to five years probation. A Martinez assistant told The Albuquerque Journal at the time that the plea agreement was acceptable because of difficulties in pinning down exact dates and locations of some of the alleged incidents.

Montes was a 22-year-old custodian at Las Cruces High School who was indicted on one count of criminal sexual contact of a minor and a count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor by a school employee after a school official found him fondling a 15-year-old student in an office in 2005. According to court records, a plea deal ended the criminal sexual contact charge. Montes received an 18-month sentence, but all but 119 days in the county jail was suspended.

The Denish spot notes that neither Montes nor Bohannon were put on the state registry of sex offenders.

Tough on crime: Despite the Police Gazette tone of the campaigns, preliminary numbers indicate that violent crime in the United States dropped dramatically in 2009, the FBI reported last month. That’s the third straight year for falling statistics in murder, forcible rape, aggravated assault and robbery.

That trend also appears to be the case in New Mexico.

According to statistics on the state Public Safety Department website, the numbers in all four of those violent-crime categories fell statewide between 2008 and 2009, and, if statistics available so far this year are any indication, those numbers could fall again this year.

(One enormous caveat on these state figures, however: They don’t include statistics from the Albuquerque Police Department, the largest police agency in the state.)

A little ray of sunshine: Both Martinez and Denish actually did release some positive ads this week. Martinez has a new Spanish-language ad. It’s another crime spot, in which Martinez talks about prosecuting a high-profile child murder case. She doesn’t even mention Denish.

Likewise, Denish has an ad about supporting small businesses. And there’s not a word about any child molester.