Is There a Child Predator Epidemic?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," March 28, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

BILL O'REILLY, HOST: And in the "Impact" segment tonight, country singer Wynona Judd has filed for divorce from Dan Roach after he was charged with three counts of aggravated sexual battery on a minor younger than 13. Ms. Judd, who has sold more than 30 million albums, has no children with Roach, who has now entered a rehab clinic.

Seems every day we're reporting brutal crimes against children in America. And the question is are we seeing an epidemic of them?

Joining us now from Denver, Sharon Liko, a criminal defense attorney who represents sex offenders on occasion. Child Help, which is an organization in Phoenix, that's where it's based, says that one in four 18-year-old girls have been sexually abused. And one in six 18-year-old boys have been. That's an enormous, enormous amount. Do you believe that?

SHARON LIKO, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No, I don't. The Justice Department has done a study. Then they determined that three to five percent of any sex offender has any propensity of re-offending. They don't cite statistics that are that outrageous. You can find statistics to support any position.

I tell you why people think it's an epidemic, because the press is making it an epidemic. Perceptions, reality. And when the press focuses on these particular cases, that's all people think that's going on. And the reality is stranger-danger attacks by people that kids don't know is not the norm. Most kids.

O'REILLY: All right, well I — see I disagree with you because I think these stats by Child Help take into account kids who didn't report what happened to them, which is an enormous problem.

Now as far as the criminal justice situation.

LIKO: How would they know if they don't report?

O'REILLY: Because they did a survey on the children. They took - it's just like you would do a political poll. You would talk to 2000 American children and glean from that what the percentage of molestation would be. That's how they do it.

LIKO: And you believe every poll?

O'REILLY: I do believe this. I think Child Help is a very good organization. And I think that this is an epidemic in America. And it's driven by a couple things. It's driven by a permissive society that now gives comfort to child molesters on the Internet, whereby they can chat about it. They can have normalcy. Other people. It's not really wrong. It's love. It's all this baloney that they can get on the Internet 24/7.

And a society that basically has come to be confused about how to punish these people. And I believe these people should be punished as Jessica's Law does, 25 years to life first offense. Sexual battery under 13-years old. Now do you believe that?

LIKO: No. I think that the public needs to figure out and learn where the problem really lies. 80 percent of the abusers are people the kids know. They are family members. They are friends of the family. They are clergy. They are teachers.

O'REILLY: Sure. That's true.

LIKO: You know.

O'REILLY: But why should that be any less heinous than a stranger?

LIKO: It's not any less heinous. But you know, the focus should be on stopping the problem. Focusing on strangers takes your eye off the ball.


LIKO: ...because that's not where most of the sex abuse happens.

O'REILLY: How would you go about stopping incest and friends of the family from molesting children? How would you go about it?

LIKO: Know your kid. You are — people are adults. Use your common sense. Think. If your kid is spending an inordinate amount of time with the shop teacher at school, if his best friend's mother is calling him at 1:00 in the morning to have little chats, if they are going over to that person's house and spending time on special projects, hey, think about it. That's a red flag.

O'REILLY: Right. All of that's very good advice for any parent. And I concur, but you said you disagree with the 25 years to life punishment for the first offense sexual felony battery against a child under 13. And that is punishment fitting the crime. Because as you know, and you've seen it first hand, these kids never get over this. It affects their whole life negatively. And why should somebody who does that get any less?

LIKO: OK. I'm not adverse to people getting punished for the crimes that they commit. And there are people that are dangerous. And they absolutely pose a danger to kids. And they should be taken off the street. But that is a small percentage of the sex offenders who are a smaller percentage of general criminals in the United States.

O'REILLY: But you don't see it as a big problem in the USA?

LIKO: It is a problem. Of course, it's a problem. But it's not an epidemic. And it's not the worst problem that we have.

O'REILLY: All right.

LIKO: You know, you've got to focus on how to stop it.

O'REILLY: I don't think it's the worst problem we have, but I think it's in the top three. And I think that it's getting worse.

LIKO: It's a problem.

O'REILLY: It's getting worse. But anyway.

LIKO: So is your philosophy that you just, you know, you just lock them all up no matter, you know, what the level of crime is?

O'REILLY: No. My philosophy is Jessica's Law. Commit a felony of sexual battery under 13 years, you go from 25 to life. That's...

LIKO: No matter what it is?

O'REILLY: Felony sexual battery.

LIKO: Yes.

O'REILLY: Twenty-five.

LIKO: Well, not all sex offenses are created equal.

O'REILLY: All right.

LIKO: What can be considered a felony in one state is not in another.

O'REILLY: You can waffle all day.

LIKO: I'm not waffling.

O'REILLY: I'm not going to waffle. You do it, you go.

LIKO: I'm not waffling either. You need to just figure out what's important.

O'REILLY: I've already figured it out.

LIKO: Are you going to convict every person who commits a murder because he murders his wife's boyfriend? Is he in the same league as Ted Bundy. Of course not.

O'REILLY: I don't have - it's zero tolerance for kids.

LIKO: Of course not, so.

O'REILLY: No excuse. Counselor, I got to run.

LIKO: So you'd lock them all up.

O'REILLY: I got to run.


O'REILLY: Yes, I'm going to lock them all up. That's what I'm going do.


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