The Dirt Rule Doesn’t Apply…And Getting Angry

I have to admit I censored myself.  At the very least, I put a muzzle on for a few weeks.

From the moment I learned about Wesley Watson’s background and his alleged attack on a woman in Kansas City, Kansas, I knew I’d probably write a blog post about it.  Just not right then.

Wesley Watson

Frankly, I didn’t want to write about something so appalling and frustrating and preventable in the same week my car radio played The Little Drummer Boy on the drive to work.

Impersonating an officer, kidnapping, rape…pa rum pum pum pum.

THE (ALLEGED) CRIME

A rape survivor:  “I was very sad.  There were a lot of tears, but it wasn’t for me.”

On Monday, December 20, a woman walked out of a KCK Walmart only to be greeted by a 55-year-old man claiming to be a police detective.  She later told police the so-called detective accused her of shoplifting, forced her into a vehicle, drove her to a Best Buy parking lot only a few hundred yards away, and raped her.

It was 1:30 p.m.  Broad daylight.

I’ve talked about being angry as a reporter.  Like I mentioned after covering Scott Roeder’s murder trial, there are times a story infuriates you because of a somewhat rare combination.  Something so horrible allegedly happens to someone who unequivocally doesn’t deserve it.

This wasn’t a burglary with a few hundred dollars lost.  This wasn’t a drug dealer shooting victim who was already playing roulette with his life.  It was the kidnapping and rape of a woman shopping just before Christmas.

Then, we found out 55-year-old Wesley Watson’s criminal history, and anger suddenly seemed an entirely insufficient word.

THE BACKGROUND

The aforementioned rape survivor:  “You know, in my case, he was on parole for rape and he was only on parole for a couple of months.  And here we go again.”

A jury in Sedgwick County, Kansas, convicted Wesley Watson of attempted rape in 1977.

While out on parole in 1980, he followed a 14-year-old girl home from school in Wichita and raped her.  Once again, a jury convicted him of a violent sex offense.

That 14-year-old girl thought Watson would serve a prison term of 60 years to life.

The Kansas Parole Board released him in late 2009, less than half of his minimum sentence.

THE SURVIVOR

The rape survivor:  “The worst part is there’s another victim.”

The day after I did the initial story on Watson’s latest alleged rape, I was truly surprised to get a phone call from Wichita.

Since Watson had convictions where I used to report, I’d already tipped off my old station they might have a regional tie to a story in Kansas City.  They aired the basics that night.

The 14-year-old girl, now a 44-year-old rape survivor still living in Wichita, saw it.  She was furious and wanted to talk.  I’m grateful KWCH shared the interview with us.

I don’t think Lisa Clancy Nolla wanted to say, “I told you so.”  I considered her message more along the lines of, “Will you let what shouldn’t have happened once happen again?”

THE “NON-PREDATOR”

Clancy Nolla:  “How about protecting the community instead of letting somebody out early just because they’ve been in there for 30 years and they haven’t raped anybody else?  That’s because they’re in prison.”

When the parole board released Watson, prosecutors fought it.

Nola Foulston, the current Sedgwick County DA, was an assistant DA back in the early ’80’s and prosecuted Watson’s case.  Foulston’s office believed he was still dangerous and didn’t want him out in the public.  Her office would lose.

Prosecutors tried to have Watson labeled a sexually violent predator and be remanded to Larned Mental Hospital in western Kansas indefinitely.  Through a civil suit against Watson, prosecutors could virtually guarantee he’d never be a free man.

During a jury trial, prosecutors had one psychiatrist testify Watson was dangerous.  The defense had two, including one of the state’s mental health experts employed at Larned.

Foulston told KWCH’s Kim Hynes the Larned expert testified Watson was “too old to still have those urges” to hurt someone anymore.

I encourage you to re-read the previous sentence as I still have difficulty with it.

Based on that testimony, the jury deadlocked.  Watson was freed from a jail in Wichita in February 2010.  Kansas City learned his name in less than a year.

THE DIRT RULE

Clancy Nolla:  “It’s going to be with her for the rest of her life, and it could have been prevented, quite frankly.”

George Brett once said something I thought was extremely profound.  He called it “The Dirt Rule.”

The Kansas City Royals legend said, “The farther you get from the infield dirt, the easier it looks.”

Anyone who knows me well knows how huge a fan I am of Brett’s, but what made me love this quote was its timing.  Brett didn’t say this during his playing days to fend off critics while he toiled through a rare slump.  He said it well after he was retired.

I tried to apply the Dirt Rule to this story.  I tried really hard to give credence to that Larned expert’s testimony.  Surely, that expert knows something I don’t.  Surely, an extenuating circumstance.

Then, I think of that sentence.  A convicted, 54-year-old rapist “too old to still have those urges.”  I think of those words coming out of the mouth of a mental health expert for the state of Kansas.

Then, I get angry all over again.

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