Abuser doesn't merit any more leniency
The Jan. 11 edition of the State Journal, the weekly business newspaper of our state, had a variety of interesting articles including, "W.Va. Supreme Court Weighs Right to Worship." At first glance this headline appeared to be asking a basic question of our Supreme Court. But that's not the issue.
Charles R. Elder of Bridgeport, W.Va., sentenced to home confinement for sexual abuse, feels he is not being treated fairly because he cannot attend the church of his choice. The real issue in the case of Mr. Elder has little to do with religion. It is that this sexual abuser, who has done dreadful things and is not in prison, wants special favors.
Writing for the State Journal, Andrea Lannom's article reported that Mr. Elder has "entered guilty pleas in Harrison County Circuit Court to charges of sexual abuse by parent, guardian, custodian or person in position of trust and to third-degree sexual assault." Additionally, it states, "The state alleges in a court brief that Elder perpetrated hundreds, if not thousands of sexual assaults against his stepdaughters while they were minors and that after one of the stepdaughters was impregnated by the petitioner, the petitioner himself performed a crude abortion on the victim."
Mr. Elder was sentenced to "10 to 20 years for the first charge and one to five years for the third-degree sexual assault charge." The unbelievable part of this sentence is that the court ruled he would "serve these sentences concurrently by electronically monitored home confinement." And this individual has the nerve to demand special arrangements for church!
For his guilty pleas to these despicable acts, he received no prison time. There are many people incarcerated for less despicable transgressions. Recently, various media sources reported that a 69-year-old Lawrence County, Ohio, man received a 60-year prison sentence for raping three young children in his care. Too bad Mr. Elder doesn't reside in Ohio.
The State Journal report notes that Mr. Elder is diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, post- traumatic stress disorder and depression. Regardless, he is not a sympathetic figure.
This self-admitted sexual abuser wants the West Virginia Supreme Court to allow him to attend a certain church, located 45 minutes away from his home, three times a week. If this is the same church Mr. Elder previously attended, it obviously wasn't successful in inculcating morality or decency, so why have him attend now? If he was not formerly affiliated with this church, his request is groundless.
Chief Justice Brent Benjamin, in response to Elder's attorney seeking additional benefits for his client, referred to the situation as "the 600-pound gorilla in the room..." The Chief Justice further noted that, "There are a lot of veterans in the prison system. There are a lot of people with life-threatening illnesses and your guy is sitting at home. That's the 600-pound gorilla."
Mr. Elder is a sexual abuser and needs to be treated as such. It is well known that sexual abusers do not limit their actions to one or two individuals, but often continue their abuse when given the opportunity.
Mr. Elder, by virtue of his illnesses or some other issues known to the court, received an unbelievably lenient sentencing arrangement. This is not a case about a man being denied his right to worship but rather a sexual abuser wanting undeserved special treatment.
Diane W. Mufson is a licensed psychologist. She is a former citizen member of The Herald-Dispatch editorial board and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page. Her email is email@example.com.