James Brian Sliter, 42, wants to be the mayor of Wilmer, Texas (population 3,593). Like many aspiring local politicians, Mr. Sliter is an accountant. Unlike any of them, he is a registered sex offender. That is what campaign strategists might call “a negative.”
In 2004, Brian Sliter solicited sex from a person he believed was a 15-year-old girl in an Internet chat room. But by the time he arrived at her address, Aphrodite had morphed into Abe Vigoda, complete with badge.
Sliter was arrested and convicted of attempted sexual assault of a child. He paid a $5,000 fine and received deferred adjudication with 10 years’ probation. He also landed on Texas’ sex offender registry. He was not convicted of a felony.
That was four years ago. Now he wants his fellow citizens to follow the judge’s lead and give him a second chance. He wants them to elect him their mayor.
His opponent, incumbent Don Hudson, thinks Mr. Sliter’s election would “put a stigma” on the city. That claim suggests that Mr. Hudson may not have much else going for him. If he did, he would run on his record and let his opponent’s past speak for itself.
If I lived in Wilmer I would probably vote for Brian Sliter IF he were qualified and had better ideas than his opponent. After all, he’s running for mayor, not town babysitter.
Make no mistake: I do not condone what Mr. Sliter did. Soliciting sex from a minor, whether it’s over the internet, on a street corner, or in a mall, is wrong. It is unlawful and should be. Sliter got caught and got what he had coming. Many say he got off too easy.
But the citizens of Wilmer are probably safer around a registered sex offender than with almost anyone else except you. Why? Because as a sex offender, he knows that if he is getting a second chance now, there will be no third chance for him. He knows he cannot afford even a misunderstood off-hand remark. His freedom is on the line.
People worry about their children. But where kids are concerned, parents should really worry more about people they already know and trust. That’s who commits 90% of the sex crimes against children.
“Once a sex offender always a sex offender,” some say. If that’s true, it is only because one cannot logically “un-become” a sex offender (although some are removed from their states’ registries after 10 years).
Wilmer’s voters should realize that sex offenders have the lowest recidivism rate of all felons – usually less that 10% within three years. Think of it this way: there are about 350,000 violent sex crimes committed in the US each year. There are only 240,000 registered sex offenders in total. So if there are 350,000 sex crimes and fewer than 24,000 sex crime re-offenders (since most do not re-offend), who is committing all those sex crimes? People who are not registered sex offenders, of course – 95% of the time.
“They can never be cured,” some argue. That’s debatable but, more to the point, it doesn’t matter. Alcoholics can’t be cured either. Yet our interest is not in their cure, it is in their conduct. We care that they do not re-offend. Whether they are “cured” is a personal matter for them.
Despite all this, some people may not be able conscientiously to bring themselves to vote for a sex offender. “It’s rewarding the wrong behavior,” they think. But voters would not be rewarding him for being a sex offender. They would be rewarding him for being a concerned citizen and the better candidate.
Friends of Mr. Sliter encouraged him to run. They say he is “a concerned citizen who wants to help this town.” One called him a “nice, quiet, energetic, and smart man.” Mr. Sliter himself wants to prove he can be an asset to his community.
Local governments – and state and national governments, for that matter – need all the people like that they can get. When such a man presents himself as a candidate, the least good citizens can do is take him seriously and consider him on his merits. He made a serious mistake and he has owned up to it. Good for him.
Wilmer’s citizens of faith may reflect on Matthew 18:21-22, where Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother, who sinned against him. “Till seven times?” Peter asked. And Jesus replies, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” Could the Lord know something that Wilmer voters have yet to learn?