A national legal watchdog group is challenging a decision by the Clark County, Nev., district attorney’s office not to prosecute a Las Vegas policeman for sexually molesting a teen-age boy because such an action might be “discriminatory toward homosexuals.”
The U.S. Justice Foundation has written to District Attorney Stewart L. Bell urging prosecution of narcotics detective Vinten Hartung for allegedly luring a boy, now 16, into a sexual relationship. Hartung reportedly plied the boy with alcohol.
While dropping felony molestation charges, the district attorney’s office said it was continuing to investigate Hartung on two lesser charges of stalking and furnishing alcohol to a minor. Hartung resigned from the Las Vegas police force, shortly after WorldNetDaily brought the case to national attention.
“This letter is being written in an effort to urge you to prosecute the above matter to the fullest extent permissible under the law,” wrote USJF attorney Richard D. Ackerman. “Nevada law holds that it is illegal to have sexual relations with a ‘minor.’ In this case, the victim is a ‘minor’ for purposes of your consent laws.
“Various publications have quoted you as saying that, ‘We in essence concluded neither the state nor the federal authorities are able to pursue the sexual offenses. … It discriminates against a class of people, and that’s not allowed under the equal protection clause of the Constitution.’ It is our understanding that this ‘class’ of persons, to whom you refer, are homosexuals.”
The USJF makes the case that, with regard to liability for criminal offenses, homosexuals are not a protected or immune class of persons as suggested.
“The nation’s laws are designed for equal application and justice across all social divides and behavioral classifications,” writes Ackerman. “Grave is the day that we should make any person immune from laws designed to protect minors. One cannot deny that Nevada’s laws on the issue of consent to sex are designed to protect children, regardless of who the perpetrator may be, or, what their own sexual preferences are. The laws regarding consent are neutral and of general applicability.”
The U.S. Justice Foundation is a nonprofit public interest, legal action organization dedicated to instruct, inform and educate the public on, and to litigate, significant legal issues confronting America.
“As to the contention that it is somehow discriminatory to prosecute in this case, it has been stated that the Constitution ‘neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens,'” Ackerman wrote, citing the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case.
“More recently, the Ninth Circuit has underscored the conclusion that all discrimination, even if it benefits one over another, is impermissible,” he added, citing the 1997 Coalition for Economic Equality v. Wilson case. “Indeed, it has been stated that, ‘Equal protection of the laws is not achieved through indiscriminate imposition of inequalities,'” he wrote, citing the 1950 Sweatt v. Painter case.
“With these points in mind, it is very difficult to fathom how your office can justify a complete disregard for the child-victim in this case,” Ackerman continued.
“No 16-year-old should be subject to sexual advances by a 42-year-old peace officer, or by any other adult for that matter. The bottom line is that there is no excuse for granting favoritism or immunity to any group for fear of political backlash. It is our understanding that the duty of a prosecutor is owed to the people of the state. Their will can only be ascertained by reference to the legislation enacted by the people. Disregard of the people’s will is, frankly, a derogation of our duty to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the laws of the states where we practice.”
Ackerman added: “The decision to avoid prosecution on the sexual counts in this case sends out a very clear message. That disturbing message is, ‘A middle-aged adult may prowl the internet and high schools for sexual prey so long as the conduct can be characterized as an ‘intimate homosexual relationship.'”
Bell has not yet received the letter from the USJF.
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