Letourneau's Love: Star-Crossed or Criminal?

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, August 4, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, GUEST HOST: Should a sex offender be allowed to be with her victim if the victim is now a consenting adult?

Mary Kay Letourneau's (search) lover and former student is challenging a court order banning him from seeing her. After all, she's the mother of his children.

I'm joined now by Florida Prosecutor Stacy Honowitz. And today's big question, Stacy: should Mary Kay Letourneau be allowed to do see her former victim, Vili?

STACY HONOWITZ, SEX CRIMES PROSECUTOR: Certainly from a prosecutor's point of view, a prosecutor who had this case, the answer is no. She is truly a pedophile. She's manipulative. She had sex with him when he was 12 years old, and the dysfunction that has probably gone along with this probably hasn't ended at age 21.

And the judge put a lifetime ban on this for a specific reason. But it's no surprise that they'd go in at this point and try to challenge the order.

NAPOLITANO: All right. Well, we all know that the Constitution guarantees freedom of association and we know that there are a number of Supreme Court (search) opinions talking about the right of parents to raise their children.

HONOWITZ: Correct.

NAPOLITANO: The victim is now 21 years old. He is the father of her their two children, both of whom were born while she was in prison, by the way.

Wouldn't it actually harm the children and harm society to keep these two people apart? I mean, does this judge really expect that the order will withstand scrutiny when it's appealed?

HONOWITZ: Well, I think that the judge had a specific reason. And certainly circumstances have changed. But when you look at the history and when you look at most sex cases, there usually does come a time when a victim, an innocent child, later on wants to be with the person that abused them.

And in this case, when you're looking at whether or not more harm would come to the kids, there are ways to get around that. There are supervised visits and certainly when this all comes out that he was the father at age 12, more dysfunction is going to come along rather than her being with those kids.

So, I'm sure...

NAPOLITANO: All right. But there really is no chance that she's going to harm him any longer. She may have been a pedophile, but he's not a child. He's 21 years old. He has raised the children. He probably wants to marry her. Should the courts try to stop that from happening?

HONOWITZ: Well, I think most people would probably say they have a right to be together. I think a prosecutor who's been through these cases, who has seen the evolution of most cases where a pedophile has involved a child victim, even at 21 they might say he was so manipulated at 12, at 21 he doesn't even know what he wants. He's not even mature enough to know whether or not a relationship like this would work.

So from a prosecutor's standpoint, they would say no. There's no reason for them to be together.

NAPOLITANO: Let's switch gears a little bit.


NAPOLITANO: She raped him. She was convicted of statutory rape. The government's and society's theory is he was too young to consent. She only got and only served seven and a half years in jail.

Do you think, Stacy, this case would be viewed differently if the defendant were a male and the victim were a female? Do we look at this differently because the victim is a boy as opposed to a young girl?

HONOWITZ: Well, I think a lot of people do look at it that way because I've been involved in cases involving a female defendant and a male victim. And when I was picking a jury or going through this and it was a big press case, most people said it's a right of passage for a boy. They look at it as it was, you know, "He hit the jackpot: an older woman and a younger guy."

So, I think that some people will look at this and say she was treated differently because she was a woman, but we would hope, as we prosecute these cases, that you don't differentiate between a man and a woman.

NAPOLITANO: Well, then why do we sentence female rapists to sentences about 1/3 the duration of male rapists when the victim is a child?

HONOWITZ: This was a negotiated plea. I don't know if he didn't want to testify against her. I know in the case that I prosecuted, certainly it was a young boy with an older woman, he thought it was fabulous and he didn't want to come forward.

In a lot of those cases, that's what happens. Victims don't want to come forward, and in most cases — we don't have a lot of cases with female defendants — but when we do, people are not fully convinced that they want to convict. And for some reason, I don't know if there's a sympathy towards the female or they just think that it's not as important as when a man rapes a younger girl.

NAPOLITANO: OK. Stacy Honowitz, prosecutor in Southern Florida. Thank you for joining us tonight.

HONOWITZ: Thank you, judge.

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