Defending Sex Offenders

I know this may sound odd, but one of the more common questions I get as a criminal defense lawyer is:  what’s it like to represent a sexsex offenders offender?

After 30 years as a criminal defense lawyer, I’ve defended everyone you can imagine, charged with every kind of crime you can imagine.  Still, I have to say that sex offenders are in a category all their own when it comes to criminals.

I think the biggest difference comes from the fact that sexual assault is an “intimate” crime–not that the perpetrator wants “intimacy” with the victim as most of us would consider it.  Almost every other crime I can think of–robbery, theft of a car, assault, and even murder doesn’t involve such close contact with the victim.

Sexual assault is really “up close and personal.”  It takes a different type of criminal to commit this kind of crime.

I’m not a psychologist, but in my experience most sex offenders aren’t really turned on by the sexual act.  Instead, it’s the power and dominance they have for a brief time.  Around men, quite often, sex offenders are losers and unable to hang with men in easy relationships.  Most sex offenders I’ve worked with are loners, misfits, or outcasts.  By assaulting women, they “prove” to themselves they are studs and attractive.

One particularly dangerous offender I represented years ago, before his sentencing for several rape convictions, bragged to  the probation officer he’d had sex with 100 women.  That statement showed up in the pre-sentence report to the judge.  At his sentencing, the defendant corrected the report to say he really had sex with over 200 women!!  (If true, I hope they weren’t rapes…)

Almost every sex offender I’ve represented has denied the act and blamed everything on the woman.  Often, they use force.  When the victim fights back, the offender can accuse the woman of “starting it.”  Even after the victims come into court and testify against the offenders and juries find them guilty, many still deny their guilt.

Guys who are “kiddie twiddlers,” who sexually assault children, are the hardest to work with.  The usual reaction I get is, “I know I didn’t do it.”  Then, even after I confront them with evidence through statements of the victims, forensic proof, and other witness’ statements, the offenders still deny everything.

At first, I assumed this was simply the usual human response to deny or minimize our guilt for acts we’ve done.  Now, I realize something more subtle is at work.

These men who assault kids find the act inexcusable, like  normal people do.  They think it’s so horrible that they, the sex offenders, could never possibly have done it because…well, because  “I could never do anything so horrible and gross.”  They block any memory of the act from their conscious minds–which is why they think they’re being honest when they say, “I didn’t do it.”

Any thoughts from you?

About Colin Nelson

Colin T. Nelson worked for 40 years as a prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis. He tried everything from speeding tickets to first degree murder. His writing about the courtroom and the legal system give the reader a "back door" view of what goes on, what's funny, and what's a good story. He has also traveled extensively and includes those locations in his mysteries. Some are set in Southeast Asia, Ecuador,Peru, and South Africa. Readers get a suspenseful tale while learning about new places on the planet. Colin is married, has two adult children, and plays the saxophone in various bands.


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