The Young Turks recently claimed that Jose Caballero, 40, and Elissa Alvarez, 20 have been sentenced to 15 years in prison following their Monday May 4, 2015 convictions on two counts each of lewd and lascivious acts for having sex on a public beach in Bradenton Beach, Florida on July 20, 2014. The TYT “army,” comprised mostly of group-thinking militant liberals and atheists, predictably turned this case into a platform from which to propagandize their paranoid anti-conservative, anti-religion demagoguery and lies. According to them, the penalty is excessive, and it is so because of the domination of Christian-conservative fundamentalism in Florida’s political and legal systems; a fundamentalism so puritanically anti-sex even the most innocuous public exhibitions of sex and sexuality are harshly and unreasonably punished. So extreme is the paranoia, demagoguery and lies exhibited by some of these liberals and atheists that they compare the punishment, and, for some, even the making of public sex illegal itself, to the ideology of terrorist organizations, like the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and fundamentalist, Middle Eastern countries. One TYT fan called the southeastern State, for example, “Saudi Florida.” No justification is provided for these analogies, and there is none that can be offered; they are faulty comparisons merely made either for their emotional appeal or because their originators are delusional and hysterical enough to believe them. If Florida was even remotely close to what they allege, the disgusting public displays of sexual depravity exhibited in the State during events like Spring Break and Gay Pride would not be allowed and transgressors would be severely punished. Notice too that it is only religious terrorists and theocracies that atheists and liberals use as the standard for these juxtapositions, not atheist terrorists, like the Tamil Tigers, or state atheist “utopias,” like China and North Korea, where punishments for the same or lesser offenses are just as harsh or worse. Of course not! To them it is only religion that “poisons everything” and is “the root of all evil” whereas atheism is the realization of Shangri-la. Well one such atheist Promised Land is North Korea, which punishes lewd behavior with a trip to a labor camp with intense work requirements, daily beatings, physical punishments, harsh living conditions, usually “with 300 to 400 people sleeping crowded into one room,” and such a lack of food that inmates feed off such things as rats and grass. At first, however, I too believed the potential punishment for this couple to be excessive for what appears to be a victimless, nonviolent offense that could be handled under public nuisance laws carrying a much lighter sentence, often simply a fine, and thus I began to investigate why they were tried under a stricter statute. As I became aware of the context of the charges, I began to endorse the punishment.
As usual, the Young Turks got their facts wrong, and a quick fact check proved that the couple have not yet been sentenced but that 15 years is only the maximum penalty for these individuals’ indiscretion under the statute under which they were prosecuted. The couple are not facing this punishment because of some ideological or religious domination in Floridian law but because their sex act was witnessed by a 3 year old girl thus making them subject to statute 800.04, which governs the prosecution and punishment of a number of “(l)ewd or lascivious offenses committed upon or in the presence of persons less than 16 years of age,” including sexual assault and battery, sexual coercion, sexual molestation and statutory rape. In other words, their offense is covered by a law aiming to protect children, and punish a host of minor and serious sex crimes against or in the presence of them. Perhaps those complaining about the alleged “severity” of the potential penalties are unaware that this is why the maximum sentences are what they are, or maybe they still do not believe such sexual violations and corruption of minors are serious crimes, or crimes at all. Unless, of course, it is committed by religious people and religious authorities. Then they become great crimes to these people; not out of concern for the children, mind you, but because such violations can be exploited to attack religion, religious people and religious institutions. If these liberals and atheists truly want to protect children from sexual crimes, corruption and exploitation then they will want all such malfeasance punished regardless of who or what the culprit is, and they will see this law for what it is – ideologically and religiously neutral. They do not have to support the maximum penalty in this particular case but they must accept that it is being applied solely because it is the applicable statute and not for any ideological or religious motive. It is that simple!
Had a child not been present, these individuals would likely have been tried under a statute carrying lighter penalties, like 877.03, which deals with disorderly conduct and carries a maximum of “60 days in jail or 6 months of probation, and a $500.00 fine.” Because 800.04 includes such serious transgressions, though, the maximum sentences must be strong enough to punish, and hopefully deter, them effectively. Thus, for those who are convicted but under 18 years of age, the sentence is a minimum prison sentence of 24.5 months and, at the judge’s discretion, a maximum of 5 years in prison, 5 years of sex offender probation and or $5,000 in fines. For those over 18, the maximum punishment is 15 years in prison, 15 years of sex offender probation and/or $10,000 in fines. Unless certain criteria for exemption is met, those convicted must also register as a sex offender. Remember these are maximum penalties that not all crimes will receive. The punishment is to be proportional to the crime. Two consenting adults having sex in public is certainly not as detrimental and serious as other crimes covered by this law, and nobody involved has claimed it to be, and thus violators would normally probably receive a lighter sentence. State Attorney Ed Brodsky explicitly says “It was never our intention to seek 15 years for either of them…That’s not a reasonable sentence.”
In fact, Florida never wanted to prosecute this case and instead offered the defendants plea deals sentencing Caballero’s to prison for 2.5 years and Alvarez to jail for 90 days, and excluding them from the sex offenders registry. Both these deals were rejected by the defendants. Some in the media say that even under these deals the punishment is worse than that meted out in some fundamentalist Middle Eastern countries. Buzzfeed, for example, argues that Caballero’s deal was “notably more severe than the maximum two-year prison sentence for a similar offense in the United Arab Emirates, where a British couple were sentenced to three months in prison (though deported before serving any time) for indecent behavior on a beach in 2008.” Notice the lack of context in that statement as it doesn’t state that Caballero would have received a longer sentence not because of his sexual indiscretions but because this is his second felony in less than 3 years after being released from prison, where he had spent 8 years for cocaine trafficking. For this same reason, the State is allegedly now pushing for Caballero to receive the maximum 15 years in prison (although some reports say it not pursuing this sentence); a lesser punishment for Alvarez is being pursued, which may or may not involve jail time. Both will be registered as sex offenders. Funny how these details are ignored by those whining that the couple is being “harshly” punished merely for having public sex because of Florida’s alleged theocracy. The mainstream media has not helped the matter because it has preferred sensationalizing the prospective sentence while omitting or glossing over the context of the case, as I have in this blog.
Public sex is detrimental enough to contribute to the corruption of public morals, to “outrage the sense of public decency” and to “affect the peace and quiet of persons,” all of which are dealt with under statute 877.03. Had a child not witnessed this act, a lesser charge likely would have been pursued by the State. As it is, a child was present and thus prosecution under 800.04 is right! Having rejected the plea deals, which I believe were fair, I fully endorse Caballero receiving the maximum punishment, because he is a repeat offender, and Alvarez receiving jail time and perhaps a fine. These 2 have made their bed and must now lie in it.