My experiences with 290 have shown me that contrary to everything I have ever believed, our law enforcement and judicial systems are both corrupt and unjust. Allow me to share my story, albeit a bit lengthy.
I am an older gay male raised in a time when it was still considered mental illness. So I have not been open or out about my sexuality with the exception of some family and very close friends. If you were to meet me you would never know that I am gay. I’ve lived a fantastic life, working for some great companies, lived in several states, and enjoyed my life on the water as a professional. My boyfriends have all been young men between 18 to about 29. In the gay community there are a great many young men who love older men and contrary to popular belief we do not need to “recruit” or “groom” young men. In fact almost all of the fantastic people I have had enter my life have approached me.
At 56 I had no criminal background except for a DUI many years ago. That was my first brush with law enforcement and it should have been a lesson about what LEO’s think about gay men. On the night of that incident my boyfriend of 5 years (who was 27 at the time)and I had gone to one of the few local gay bars in our area. While he danced and drank I had a few beers and a hotdog and paced myself. When we left for home we were stopped just after leaving the bar. I was told I was being pulled over because my passenger wasn’t wearing his seat belt (which was not true). It turns out the local police were sitting across the street and targeting gays leaving the bar. This was confirmed by an attorney who had a flood of cases come to her from gay men all who had visited that bar or one of the others nearby.
I cooperated as I had noting to hide and complied with all the field sobriety tests they asked me to perform. The officer commented that I seemed fine but asked me to take a breathalyzer test to which I promptly agreed. I blew a .08 and figured he would let me go. But he decided to arrest me instead. Of course my boyfriend made a bit of a scene at that point so they arrested him too. I might mention when I was pulled over I turned into a store parking lot (private property) and parked neatly within the lines. My thought was they would tell me to take a cab home and the car would be left alone since it was off the public roadway. Unfortunately they had the car towed and impounded. Long story short, it cost me a fortune, I should have realized that LEO’s are not okay with gay people, and especially older – younger couples.
Skip ahead to July of 2012. I was employed on Santa Catalina Island working on the water. While I loved my job very much it was also a very isolated area operated by long term residents who were less than accepting of gays. I often heard their comments and jokes and internally laughed with the knowledge that here I was, a gay man, sitting there sharing beers and being accepted by them because they had no clue. The “town” was extremely small and there really is nothing to do there. My schedule soon became wake up, go to work, get off work and have dinner and beers, go back to my boat (my home), sleep, repeat.
While I did have a boyfriend on the mainland he had not come out to spend time with me. And even though I was surrounded by people constantly I felt so isolated and alone. I longed to be with one of my own kind. On a couple of occasions I had talked with a young man who’s family spent a lot of time on the island. Each time we saw each other we would talk. He told me he worked in the family business and there were issues with his mom drinking all the time. The attention was welcome but I didn’t think much of it until one night in late July.
After working one night I sat at the bar and enjoyed cold beers until they closed. I then moved to the inside bar. Seated at the bar was the young man and his mother. I sat down beside him and we started to talk as we had done before. He was drinking a rum and coke and complained that his mother bought the cheap stuff. We talked for a bit and I bought him his next drink with a top shelf rum. After some time he excused himself saying he needed to take his now very intoxicated mother back to their room and that he would return. While he was gone my mind raced a bit. He was really attractive, seemed interested in me, and was returning to spend even more time with me at the bar. The beers I had consumed certainly lowered my inhibitions and while I never have the nerve to be the first to ask I just felt I had to try.
On his return we talked for a bit and then I hesitantly tried to take the first step. I asked him if I could ask him a question without him getting upset with me to which he replied he had no issues, ask anything. I was still hesitant and said never mind. He insisted several times that I ask my question and said he would not have an issue. I refused to ask for nearly a half hour. After his constant prodding I sheepishly asked “can I touch you”. He looked at me and asked me to repeat myself so this time I said “can I touch you there”. Yes, a foolish question, I should have asked if he were gay. But alcohol does cloud the mind and so there we were. His reply was simple, “no, and why would you even ask me that”? I was mortified, I apologized several times. He said nothing else and just left.
I felt awful. Most young people are very accepting of gay people and I had expected a simple yes or no and then for conversation to continue. His leaving and being upset about it all really bothered me. In fact I made every effort the next day to avoid running into him. Not so much because I felt I had made a fool of myself but I didn’t want to make him feel more uncomfortable.
Several days went by and I still felt bad for making him feel awkward. He was really a great person and fun to talk to and I had no intention of upsetting him. Then, while I was at work one evening I received a text message from “him”. I was still feeling the guilt of making him uncomfortable and didn’t respond right away. After several hours I answered with a simple response, apologizing for being so forward and making him uncomfortable.
“His” response was that I had not made him uncomfortable at all. There were several more messages over two or three days, each of which I did not answer for hours, still feeling guilty of making someone uncomfortable. “His” messages were ones I have heard before. “My parents don’t know I’m gay”, “They would kill me if they found out”, “They have no idea I like older men”, etc. My first responses were that he would be okay and that he will work through it. But “He” kept at me.
At first my responses were just for support and understanding, but because of my past, and those I have met before, I let my heart step in and cloud my thinking. Then “he” turned the conversation to wanting to meet. At some point “he” says he is 17. I wanted to stop talking to him but it was too late. I know what it’s like to fear losing family and friends just to be yourself and coupled with my complete isolation from my own kind, I slowly gave in to “his” requests.
I never initiated a single conversation about sex. I only wanted to be there for “him” and help him get past all this. First “he” asked if we could get together in the upcoming weeks and I agreed. “He” asked what we would do and my response was always that there was much to talk about. That we could sit on my boat and chat about all that is happening in “his” life, about where the future will take things. It was always “him” that would ask about sex. I would give in and tell him it was all up to him, and what he wanted to do. I was more interested in talking.
At one point “he” said he was self conscious about the size of his penis and I assured him he should stop putting so much emphasis on the issue. “He” then asked if I had pictures of other guys his age that I could show him to ease his mind, to which I responded with an absolute no, I had no photos of young men under 18. “he asked more than once but I assured him I did not possess such photos.
This goes on for a few weeks until “he” says he is coming to the island the next weekend. He asks if we can meet a day or two ahead and I agreed. At some point he asks if I can pay for the ferry ticket over and again I agreed. I wasn’t totally comfortable with this but his family came over ofter and if they were going to let him come a few days early I figures what the hell. I must admit that during all this time I saw little things that didn’t add up. Tiny, minutia things like saying we met at the bar when we had talked several times before over a month and a half. Or saying he didn’t want his mom to hear us talking when he had already taken her to the rooming house and returned to talk to me alone.
So the day comes that he is to arrive. “He” texts me again saying he is on the ferry and on the way. I got my boat ready for his arrival, straightening up the main salon where his bunk would be, separate from my main stateroom. As I went into town “he” messaged saying he has arrived. I told “him” to walk through town and meet me in front of the bathrooms as I had to make a quick pit stop. When I came out of the building I started to head back to my boat and was about to text “him” to see where he was as I didn’t see him,
We all know what happens next. I am approached by 4 men and a woman and they ask if I am (name here), to which I reply yes. I am immediately arrested and taken away to a trailer where I am questioned by an SVU Officer and a Federal Agent. I tried to cooperated and answered their questions at first. The SVU Officer said they had a partial text conversation from the phone of the young man and that his mother had turned it over to them. He also mentions they understand there are always two sides to the story and that they just wanted to clear this up. I was totally honest and pointed out that I had not textd him first, that it had been he who texted me, unsolicited, and that I even had delayed responding over the first few days because I felt badly for making him feel uncomfortable. I even explained that we had talked several times before and then had met at the bar over drinks.
This is when the light comes on and I realize they are not interested in the truth. Now the SVU Officer says that he believes about 90% of what I am saying. Then he finally says, he was the one sending all the text messages to me the entire time. He has been lying to me the entire time yet I had been honest. This is when I decide there is nothing more to say. They asked for passwords to my laptop and I refused at that point. They had several agents going through my boat and all of my belongings. They took my cell phone also. For the first time I felt I was being totally lied to and that the system I always believed in was corrupt.
They had a warrant, which I asked to see but was never shown, to search my boat and to go through my laptop and phone. I figures I had nothing to hid and figure it will all blow over soon. What I didn’t realize is that my boyfriend, who was 19 at the time and had access to my laptop, had placed images on my laptop of guys he chats with and who were under 18. To this day I still don’t know what images were on my laptop.
I was sent via boat to the mainland along with a 20 year old guy who was the son of one of the long time residents and had raped a girl the night before. During processing I was told my bail would be $100,000.00. The young man who had raped someone was told his bail would be $10,000 So his dad shows up and bailed him out with the 10%, or $1,000.00 and off he went. Me, I needed $10,000.00 so was sent to Men’s Central in downtown LA. It took me a week to get my 84 year old mother to get me the $10,000.00 for my bail. I was smart enough to tell them I was gay at booking and was place in a dorm with others of my own kind. That surely saves me.
After release I had weeks of living on the street as I had left all of my credit cards and cash aboard my boat and even though I asked them twice to get my wallet they did not. They had impounded my boat, which was also my home, and I could not go near it or get anything from it for nearly as month. I had the clothes on my back and I would wash then and put them on wet and let them dry as I walked the marina. My mother finally paid for a motel room for me and I kept asking to get my stuff from my boat. After about 4 weeks I was allowed to pack one backpack of clothes and get my wallet. At least now I could support my self again. I went and got a replacement cell phone, get some food and started moving forward to defend myself.
I paid the first attorney $2000.00 and he did nothing. I was charged with attempted sex with a minor and possession of child porn. His advice was to just take a plea and deal with it. He didn’t look at any of the evidence nor did he seem to care what had actually happened. Funny, but you can’t sue an attorney for not performing no matter how bad they are.
I called a computer forensic specialist to see if he could show that I had never visited a site that has cp and that I had not viewed the pics that were on my pc. While speaking to him he sent me to an excellent attorney. This man read through all of the files. I got copies of the initial reports and it was eye opening.
First off, after the incident at the bar the young man and his mother had gone to my boss and just wanted him to know what had transpired. My boss brought in the town sheriff and that report showed again, that they just wanted to let them know what had happened. In fact, the report says they were asked if they wanted to press charges and their response was “no, nothing happened”. Truly nothing had. This should have ended right then and there. Perhaps my boss could have come to me and suggested being more cautious about whom I speak with at the bar, or even the sheriff could have spoke with me about the issue. But the sheriff decided to pass it to SVU, and they started contacting me as the young man I had talked to, never touched and walked away from.
It became obvious that my boss and sheriff had an issue with it being guy on guy. People hit on people all the time. There was no physical contact, and it was certainly expected that someone sitting at a bar drinking a rum and coke was of legal age. There was never a reason to take this past that point other than the obvious bigotry of the small minded people that work and live on the island.
In the SVU Officers report he went so far as to say that he did a full background check on me and could find NOTHING! Then he goes on to say that because he was unable to find anything in my background I must be considered extremely dangerous because I must have managed to offend for years without detection. REALLY? So if you live your life as a law abiding citizen who works hard and has had no issues for 56 years you must be a danger to society? I guess we need to arrest everyone without a record and accuse them of things they have not done. Sounds fare to me.
My attorney picked up on all of this and hit the DA hard. He pointed out that it never would have come to this had I not been gay. He showed them that the charge of attempted sex with a minor was total entrapment as they made the initial contact and that my responses were always non sexual until pressed over and over by the the agent. The issues of the CP on the laptop was also pushed. He told them I had not been the one to place it there.
When it came down to it they offered a plea, as they always do. They would drop the attempted sex with a minor but wanted the CP charge to stand. One count. 1 year with 60 day public service in lieu there of, 5 years probation, LIFETIME REGISTRY. My attorney told me to take it to trial and I was ready to do so, but then as we talked I realized two things.
One, I was not going to get a fair trial. It’s hard enough to find people that are gay friendly, but finding a jury that would also accept the younger – older nature of my dating would compound the issue. No one wants to believe that an 18 year old can be attracted to a 56 year old. Funny, because no one treats Hugh Hefner as a pervert for having 18 to 25 year old’s all over his mansion in swim suits. In fact many envy him.
And two, on the stand I would be asked to name who had put the CP on my laptop. After being exposed to all that was going on I was not willing to name my boyfriend and watch his life be ruined for a lifetime. I broke down in my attorneys office when he told me that this would happen. I cried because I could not destroy a young mans life to save my own. After getting myself under control I told my attorney to take the plea deal in order to protect my boyfriend. I truly believed that the judge would look at my past, that at 56 I had led a clean and prosperous life and that there should be leniency as this was my first offense.
So how did it end? Well, I took the plea. The court had no compassion nor did they weigh my past and it stood at 60 days of community service, 5 years of supervised probation, 12 months of counseling (which has dragged out to 2 ½ years and counting that I must pay for every week) and lifetime registration. It cost me nearly $10,000.00 in attorneys fees, the SVU kept all of my electronics (phone, laptop, camera, video camera, etc) even though there was nothing on any of those items with the exception of the laptop, and the Feds kept my $80,000.00 boat, which was also my home. I had 15 years of travel photos on my laptop and they would not copy them and send them to me. So I lost all of my memories as well.
I had a second attorney that was handling the boat and I was told that when the attempted sex with a minor charge was dropped I should be able to get my boat back. But the feds wouldn’t let go and while she was confident I would be able to get the boat back it would take another $4,000.00 on attorneys fees to even attempt to take them on. Why were the feds even involved? I was charged through the state of California and the feds never prosecuted me. The Feds kept my boat and sold it at auction.
I admit I made some bad decisions. I was willing to pay the price for being foolish and giving in to the constant requests of someone I though needed help. I crossed a line and I am not denying that at all. But I can not understand how I can be punished for life for such a transgression. To loose my money, my home, my belongings wasn’t enough? Is this not a payment to society for my mistakes?
My conviction date was 22 July, 2013. I am nearly at the 3 year mark of my 5 year probation. I’m 60 years old. I have met everything they have asked from me and never have had a probation issue. I’ve had the police and probation show up looking like they were ready for war, dressed in bullet proof vests, boots, and carrying enough firepower to take on a terrorist stronghold. They have gone through my home, my belongings, my phone and my laptop and have found nothing. I have passed a polygraph and I prove every day that I am not, and never was a threat to anyone. I’ve built up my own business, pay my taxes and even helped my foster son through some tough times.
I plan to apply for relief and a reduction / early termination of my probation. I will also file to have my conviction reduced and then vacated. All that is left is the lifetime punishment of registration. I hope and pray that people such as Janice and all the others fighting for us can get the system to finally see that the registry is extremely punitive in every aspect. My being listed has no affect on my chances of acting inappropriately again. My self worth and self consciousness more than regulate my behavior. Yes, I faltered but I hurt no one. Not one human was injured due to my decisions. Yet, unless things change, I will be an outcast in my own country for life. My picture and information placed on a public list so anyone can single me out to ostracize me, or worse, hurt or kill me.
My boyfriend went on to join the Navy. He’s doing great and I’m so very proud of all he has become. Had I not protected him he would have been yet another 19 year old who’s future was destroyed by looking at pictures of others who where close in age. I’m glad I protected him. I would not wish this life on anyone and to ruin someones life for 50 or 60 years would be cruel and unusual punishment.
I welcome all who wish to comment and will gladly answer any questions you might ask. All I ask is that you be respectful in your responses.
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