The Faces of Felons – “A Face in the Sunlight”

 “Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets”- Paul Tournier

“For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light”- Mark 4:22 NLT

“Keep your face to the sunlight and you cannot see the shadow”- Helen Keller

“Enough IS Enough!”- My Mother

   For over forty years I was not one who was willing to pray or to even talk about God. In order to do either, one must acknowledge His existence and the truth- In its simplest form- Is that I was too ashamed of my own existence to acknowledge His. For once the Lord’s existence is acknowledged, we realize we no longer have any secrets.

   And I did have my secrets – I wanted my secrets.

   That is until the day my secrets- alone with my blood- spilled from my body and I no longer had anything to hide, nor anywhere to hide it.

January 22, 2010

   The white-haired judge James Cohn looked down at me from his elevated position behind “The Bench” in one of the U.S. District courtrooms in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. It was around 9:30am, I believe, on the day I was to receive my sentence after previously pleading guilty to possession of child pornography.

   Judge Cohn gazed at me through his wire-framed glasses and when he had spoken a moment before; his voice was disconcertedly soft and gentle, perhaps even a little sad.

   He had stated that he really was trying to understand how anyone could take pleasure in looking at pictures of children, nude or in sexual situations, and he was waiting for my answer.

   Thankfully I was not required to stand because I don’t think I would have been able to. As it was my voice felt shaky and choked with emotion and tears seemed poised to spill from my eyes at any moment. All of the shame, embarrassment, sadness, and anger that had been directed inward at myself, and had caused me to pronounce my own death sentence, was there again.

   Only this time there was an audience.

   While the audience was a relatively small one, to me it loomed larger than the crowd the pope addressed on Easter Sunday at St. Peter’s Basilica. In actuality, There was the Judge, a Clerk, Court Reporter, a Bailiff or two, my Attorney, the US Attorney, and one of the FBI Agents. There were probably a couple of others as well, but with the exception of my sister Kathy, no one was there who wasn’t being paid to be there.

   I was grateful to my sister for supporting me and coming down to Florida to be with me while we were pretty certain that prison was in my future, we didn’t know whether the Judge would allow me to “self-surrender” at a later date or take me immediately into custody.

   At the same time that I was grateful for her presence, I was also painfully aware of her presence, as I was aware of the presence of all of the females in the courtroom. Mothers all, probably, and therefore the most difficult to rationalize this type of irrational behavior with.

   I attempted to explain that, for me, it was not about child pornography specifically. What images of minors were contained on my computer were a small percentage of the “adult” images that I had saved.

   Simply put, I was addicted to pornography, and it was a problem that was exaggerated by drug and alcohol abuse, and the internet. The problem certainly was not caused by the internet, but it definitely made it faster and easier to rise to new lows of immoral behavior.

   Of the tens of millions of regular viewer of “adult” pornography (If I may use the term “adult” only in regard to the legality of it and not the maturity of it), most do not cross the line into illegal areas such as child pornography. Unfortunately millions do, and most of my 10 minutes or so of addressing the court were focused on trying to make those present understand, indeed, I wanted them to believe that I was not a monster, that I was not a danger to children, and that I was as horrified and unable to adequatively explain my behavior as I was certain that the behavior would never be repeated.

   “Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief.” James 4:9 NLT

   Well, there has been and continues to be, plenty of that as I look at myself, my family, our lives, and the lives of those around me who have double-clicked and downloaded their way into the middle of a nightmare from which it seems at times, that there is no waking from.

   Yet there must be healing as well. There is a lot of healing needed in today’s too permissive society where the freedom to be immoral is more important than morality itself.

   It is too easy to cross lines because we insist and demand that we are free, mature, and responsible enough to decide where those lines are and whether or not we wish to cross them.

   I will be first to stand up and say, “I’m sorry. I obviously didn’t know what was right and what was wrong.”

   I was broken and in need of healing and where does this healing come from?

   For me, and many others I suspect, it comes from the same place that saved me from my own death sentence and now guides me on a daily basis.

   The healing comes from God.

    The bible says: “God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” John 3:19-21 NLT

    I do know this! With the advent of the internet, tens of millions of otherwise “normal”, “average”, people reside in a secret-filled dark world lit only by the glow of the monitor in front of them and inhabited exclusively by them and the object(s) of their fantasies in the space defined by the dimensions of that hypnotic glow.

    Reality has faded into fantasy and fantasy has evolved into a nightmarish, surreal world of disaster and destruction for thousands upon thousands of individuals and their unsuspecting, undeserving families.

    People need to step into the light eliminate their secrets, and ask God to forgive them and guide them to a life, and a future, with their families.

    For myself, I certainly wish that the life, altering changes I have undergone had taken place at a different time and under different circumstance, but I was having too good a time dancing with the devil to see that God was trying to cut in. I have wasted a lot of time in my life and I have no desire to waste any of what is left on wishful thinking.

    God will not change the past, but he will give ma future and a hope as he states in Jeremiah 29:11.

    My friend Richard, who’s words you read recently, loaned me an excellent book on dealing with compulsive online sexual behavior caused, “in the shadows of the net”, by Carnes, Delmonico , and Griffin, 2nd Edition.

    It is an excellent source of help from those who need it, as well as for those who know someone who does. For now, I would like to quote some of the mind, numbing statistics found in it to underscore some of what I have said:

  • An estimated 72 million unique (meaning separate) individuals visit pornography websites each year
  • Approximately 25 percent of all search engine requests are pornography related
  • The average age of first exposure to online pornography is eleven years old
  • 70 percent of teenagers report that they have seen pornographic images online
  • 20 percent of all United States adults admit to having internationally visited a pornographic website
  • 10 percent of adult internet users believe they are cybersex addicts
  • In 2006 there were 4.2 million websites containing pornography

   It is important that I stress that at no time past, present, or future have I, do I, or will I excuse my behavior or the behavior of those in similar situations. I will say that my behavior regarding this does not, should not, define me as an individual even though some will assume it does. Sometimes though, as inmates we have a tendency to become indignant when we should be repentant, outraged, when we should be ashamed, and offended when we should be remorseful.

   At the same time, I would like to point out what should be obvious, but apparently it’s not: we have become a nation obsessed with sex and instant gratification. For far too many individuals, when our computer is turned on our sense of morality and decency is turned off.

   And while the “adults” are acting like adolescents, what are the adolescents doing? Watching, learning, and mimicking our behavior.

   Case in point: In a recent USA Today “Around the Nation” piece from Seattle Washington, the following appeared:

            “Prosecutors have charged two Issaquah Girls ages 11 and 12 with cyber stalking. They say they hacked another 12 year old girl’s Facebook page and posted sexually explicit photos and solicitations for sex. If convicted, the girls could be sentence dup to 30 days in juvenile detention.”

   Watching. Learning. Mimicking.

  We don’t need more prisons or more jail time in this country, we need more God.

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and He is the one to whom we are accountable.” Hebrews 4:13 NLT

3 thoughts on “The Faces of Felons – “A Face in the Sunlight”

  1. Laurie

    I admire that you take full responsibility for your actions, however, I find that alot of blame must be placed on the availability of child porn on the internet. One click and there it is. I have had many pop-ups appear on my own screen trying to entice me to click to see underage this or young that just because I googled a news story with a key word or phrase. I am not downplaying your sincere regret but I do believe that you can innocently step to a door and be lured by the “hynotic glow”. I think the internet is the Devils playground and he has netted many a good man here. I loved what you said about “dancing with the devil while God was trying to cut in”. This was beautifully written but I think you are way too hard on yourself.



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