Five to Twenty

I received a postcard in the mail from the police department yesterday alerting me that a high-risk sex offender had moved into the neighborhood. It's the first time I've ever received such a notice, and the timing is ironic. I was half-expecting to see my own face printed on the back of it.

But the face was not mine but someone else's, a man in his thirties, looking surprisingly normal, nothing like the shadowy mugshots one sees on the six o'clock news. Beneath his name and picture was an address and apartment number along with his charge—sexual assault of a sixteen-year-old girl. His sentence: three years imprisonment.

I stood by the mailbox staring at the sentencing. Three years. The charge was vague and may have involved anything from inappropriate contact to rape.

Meanwhile I face anywhere from five to twenty years in prison for downloading pictures. I'd be facing less prison time had I raped a boy.

Because my offense involved a peer-to-peer file sharing program, my precise charge is "Interstate Transportation of Child Pornography." The district attorney is refusing to offer the lesser charge of "Possession," which carries no minimum prison term.

My sentencing is scheduled for March, but my lawyer says postponements are common.