If you need to catch up with this story, please head over Monday’s Quick Hits because we’re going to dive right into the second installment.
Though the sexually explicit texts to “Emily” stopped immediately after her parents bought her a new phone, her mother, “Christine,” was not about to let it go. Having run into a brick wall in the form of then Sheriff Don Kramer, Christine actively supported Ron Hain’s candidacy in the hope he’d take this difficult situation far more seriously.
In the interim, using all the available resources, Christine narrowed the possibilities down to two sixth grade boys.
When Hain did win the election, he brought in BeSure Consulting principle Rich Wistocki, assigned a juvenile deputy to the case, and those sometimes-creaky wheels of justice finally began to roll forward. When Wistocki and the deputy visited the two families, the guilty party quickly confessed.
Having obtained Emily’s cellphone number from a classmate, this sixth-grade boy was savvy enough to route his texts through a Canadian website that allows stalkers to “spoof” other names and phone numbers. Understanding exactly what he was doing, the offender inserted other male classmates’ names into that Caller ID window to throw law enforcement off his trail.
But despite the culprit confessing, this was a case where the victim’s family soon started to think the cure was worse than the disease. Instead of putting this now seventh grade cyberstalker through the system, as Illinois State law clearly allows, Hain put him through Wistocki’s “diversion” program instead.
That meant there was no judicial oversight, Emily’s family would never know the final disposition of the case, and worse yet, as our criminal justice system affords all minors, the offender would enjoy the continued benefit of anonymity.
And let me tell you, that proposition certainly brought this journalist up short!
As Christine so aptly put it, “This stalker and sexual harasser seems to have more rights than my daughter did!” So, I reached out to Wistocki and we had a fascinating 30-minute conversation about how his program really works.
The young offender is required to watch a video describing exactly how sexual cyberstalking affects the victim and what the consequences will be if they continue that behavior. They’re also required to write a research paper on the subject.
In turn, the parents must watch a 90-minute video covering the potential consequences of cyberstalking and how they can more effectively monitor their children’s technology use. The device used to commit the crime must be confiscated, monitoring software must be installed on any other similar technology, and those usage “logs” must be regularly uploaded to the Sheriff’s juvenile office.
The parents must also agree to a no-contact order between the offender and the victim.
Should the offender fail to abide by any part of the program, it will mean going through the court system with all the associated attorney’s fees, expenses, and consequences.
Wistocki said, of the 50 children and teenagers who enrolled in the program between 2016 and 2017, four failed to complete it and were criminally charged and three reoffended and were also charged. That’s not a bad success rate.
With that information in hand, I reached out to a couple of local judges, some family attorneys, former prosecutors, and a high-raking school administrator to get their thoughts on Wistocki, his program and the scenario in general.
Most of them were aware of BeSure Consulting and they didn’t have a negative thing to say about Wistocki, which, when you consider the lingering and vast animosities that dominate the Kane County Judicial Center, is a real rarity. One attorney who’d hired Wistocki after her 11-year-old daughter received a suspect text, raved about him.
A judge who attended a BeSure seminar said Wistocki certainly had the credentials to provide these services though he was wary of “one size fits all solutions.”
But the most fascinating feedback came from another judge and the former prosecutors who told me that judges hate hearing these cases and they’re particularly reticent to issue no-contact orders involving juveniles. They explained the greater problem is that neither our Springfield legislators nor the courts can keep up with the technology involved, the growing frequency of sexting and cyberstalking, and that it’s regularly starting to occur at the elementary school level.
Wistocki said when he started doing this for the Naperville Police Department, he only went out to high schools. Now he’s getting requests to provide those presentations to fifth graders! Why do I suddenly want to ban the Internet?
The bottom line is, after applying the required due diligence, I’m convinced that, given the vagaries of the Kane County justice system, this is the best possible outcome for Emily and her family. The sad truth is, while some 16th Circuit judges fail to back up their own orders, the Sheriff’s Office will have no problem enforcing the no-contact order signed by the offender’s parents.
Better yet, if this young man does reoffend, a former prosecutor told me the judge will quickly note that he was given every opportunity to improve but failed to do so. And that judge will do everything in his or her power to ensure it doesn’t happen a third time.