When young is too young
April 19, 2012
with Marty Lobdell
James Hooker, 41 and Jordan Powers, 18, recently made headlines when he left his wife and children and moved in with his former student. People have been outraged, but is this a criminal act as Jordan’s mother claims? The police are investigating.
In California, age of consent is 18 years-of-age. If they were sexually active before her 18th birthday, which they claim they were not, it is criminal. What about Washington State?
In Washington, age of consent (the earliest that one can legally consent to sexual contact or intercourse) is generally 16, but there are special considerations.
Clearly sexual contact or intercourse without consent freely given (rape or molestation) is illegal regardless of the age of the victim. But what if consent is given, but by a person too young to consent?
Washington State has three degrees of child rape (also called statutory rape in some states). If the victim is less than 12 years and the perpetrator is 24 months older, it is 1st degree. If the victim is 12 years but less than 14 years and the perpetrator is 36 months older, 2nd degree.
If the victim is 14 years but less than 16 years, and the perpetrator is 48 months older, 3rd degree. (Note: rape, whether forcible or child, is defined as any penetration however so slight of the vagina or anus by any object, or any contact of the mouth with genitals or anus.
Appropriate medical procedures are excluded from the above.) There are also child molestation laws.
They follow the same age ranges for the victim and perpetrators as noted above. The key difference is “touching sexual orintimate parts of the body for sexual gratifcation,” i.e., no penetration. Regardless, both rape of a child and child molestation are serious felonies if a person is convicted.
Probably the most infamous case of child rape in Washington is the case of Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau. Mary Kay had intercourse with Vili, a former student, when he was 13 years-of-age. She was convicted on 2nd degree rape of a child and sent to prison at Purdy.
She later violated her parole by having intercourse with Vili, who was still a minor and sent back to prison. After her release, she married Vili who was then over 18 years-of-age.
What about special circumstances? Due to the finding that teachers and other people, who work with people older than 16, were having sexual contact/intercourse a new law was passed. We now have sexual misconduct with a minor.
Essentially, if a victim is 16 years but less than 18 years, and the perpetrator has a“significant relationship” (think: teacher, foster parent, coach, etc), and is 60 months older than the victim, the charge is sexual misconduct.
It is 1st degree if intercourse occurred and 2nd degree if sexual contact occurred. The age for sexual misconduct is extended from 16 years but less
than 21 years if the victim is enrolled in a high school and the perpetrator is 60 months older.
So legal consent to sexual contact or intercourse can usually be given at age 16, however, certain circumstances can push the age to 18 or even 21 years-of-age. Returning to the California case, the investigation continues as to whether sexual contact/intercourse occurred prior to her 18th birthday.
It would take solid, incontrovertible evidence to bring charges against James Hooker. At present, Jordan and James deny any sexual contact and unless their relationship cools they likely will continue to deny contact.
Whether his behavior is ethical, you be the judge.