Jon Richards: Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen fails on Internet sex predator cases

Yesterday Democratic Attorney General candidate Jon Richards wrote an excellent editorial outlining the failures of current Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen in regards to the investigation and prosecution of sex predator and child pornography offenders.

When Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen ran for re-election in 2010, he said, “Let it be known to Internet predators … law enforcement, along with the people of Wisconsin, has no tolerance for your actions.”

He was right. Wisconsin has no tolerance for the monsters who prey on our children.

That’s why I, along with thousands of Wisconsin parents, are horrified by the Department of Justice’s mishandling of countless child pornography and Internet sex predator cases. There’s a crisis in leadership on this issue and an unwillingness to be forthright about the mistakes made and how to address them.

News outlets statewide have reported the Department of Justice let tips coming into Van Hollen’s task force languish, sometimes for more than a year. In one case, one sex predator who wasn’t brought to justice went on to molest a child. Another became a counselor for teenagers without having to register as a sex offender.

This is unacceptable, and the same attorney general who said Wisconsin “has no tolerance for (these) actions” is now stonewalling questions about his agency’s failures and scapegoating a few unfortunate employees who are speaking out about the systemic problems in his department.

Yes, protecting our children must be the top priority of the Department of Justice, but it’s clear that this attorney general has failed.

I’ve called for a full public accounting and an independent investigation into the Department of Justice to find out exactly what went wrong and how we can correct these problems. The attorney general simply can’t be trusted to fully detail the problems and explain his solutions.

In fact, when the initial report came out two months ago, we were first told there was only one mishandled case. Then, there were two. Then, three. Now, we know there are at least 43 mishandled cases. And Van Hollen refuses to say how many more there might be. He has fired agents who worked on two of the cases and disciplined one other agent. But their supervisors? Van Hollen’s political appointees? They’re getting a free pass.

We won’t know the extent of the problem — or whether or not it’s been fixed — until an investigation identifies exactly what went wrong. We simply can’t rely on Van Hollen’s unsubstantiated assurances that all is well.

We must ensure that the appropriate resources and manpower are being allocated to combat Internet sex predators and keep our children safe, and that the process for following up tips to law enforcement about these predators is working. We can’t do that if there’s no transparency.

The attorney general should have immediately explained to the public the extent of the problem and how he intended to fix it. Instead, information has come in dribs and drabs, only reluctantly and due to various legal actions. Nothing we’ve seen or read about these cases can give the public confidence the problem is being addressed.

In my view, the message must be sent loud and clear to people who look to prey on our children online: Your actions are wrong, you will be caught and you will be thrown in jail for a long time.

The message today’s DOJ is sending? That their unwillingness to admit a mistake is more important than the lives of these victims.

Van Hollen and his allies have lost the faith of Wisconsin parents. It’s time for a full, independent investigation into the Department of Justice.


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