Common sense discretion should be one of the hallmarks of law enforcement.
Sometimes, when a person gets pulled over, the officer will let the person off with a warning. Sometimes not. Sometimes when a person jaywalks, an officer might give the scofflaw a talking to, but no ticket.
Discretionary latitude shrinks, however, with serious crime. Or should.
Two weeks ago, Seattle Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation busted convicted child molester and Queen Anne resident John Richard Cothern on five counts of possessing illustrations of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Cothern, arraigned Monday, pleaded not guilty and is now on the docket for a trial beginning Aug. 24. If convicted, he faces a more than eight years in prison.
In the meantime, he sits in King County Jail with $750,000 bail.
Holding Cothern, a repeat offender, on such a high bail is the right and necessary thing to do.
And yet, with such a serious charge, there is still a discretionary component to the sexual charges involving children that bothers us: the distance sex offenders must keep between themselves and schools.
The law says a convicted sex offender must live at least 880 feet from a public or private school.
Cothern lived about 500 feet from St. Anne School atop the southern slope of Queen Anne Hill. While 300 to 400 feet may be a matter of discretion in some cases, the rule of law should have been applied here.
There are plenty of residential units that are miles away from any school. And there are other convicted sex offenders who live in Queen Anne and who live beyond the required 880 feet from a school.
Whenever Cothern is released, King County should make sure that he lives the proper distance away from schools. Moreover, while there are 161 sex offenders living in just a two-mile radius of Queen Anne, the county should think about putting more distance between offenders and schools. How about a mile? Judicial discretion should come down hard on the side of potential victims, especially when they are children.[[In-content Ad]]