Olivia Munn and Punishment for Sex Offenders
Trigger Warning: This post involves sex crimes against a minor.
It was recently revealed that the upcoming film ‘The Predator’ had a scene removed because it was discovered that one of the actors n the scene was a registered sex offender.
When Shane Black’s sci-fi thriller “The Predator” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday night, the adrenaline-pumping action movie was missing something: A short scene with a jogger who repeatedly hits on the lead female character played by Olivia Munn.
Steven Wilder Striegel was cast as the persistent jogger and remained in the film until last month when Munn learned information about his past. In 2010, Striegel pleaded guilty to risk of injury to a child and enticing a minor by computer, and served six months in prison, according to court records. Striegel had attempted to lure a 14-year-old girl, who he said was a “distant relative,” into a sexual relationship through the Internet, the Los Angeles Times first reported.
When Munn shared what she knew with Fox, the studio took swift action, removing Striegel’s scene “within 24 hours,” a spokesperson told The Washington Post in an emailed statement. As of early Friday morning, an IMDb page for “The Predator” did not include Striegel, 47, in its cast list and the actor’s own profile lacked any mention of the movie. Striegel, whose professional name is Steve Wilder, could not be reached for comment.
A bit more detail about Striegel’s listing on the sex offender registery:
Striegel is listed as a sex offender in Connecticut where he was charged. According to the registry, Striegel was 38 years old when he “engaged in an Internet relationship with a fourteen year old female victim who was known to him. The offender attempted to lure the victim into a sexual relationship by making sexually graphic suggestions to the victim.”
The actor and the girl also allegedly had physical contact, which included “kissing, touching [the minor’s] breast over her clothing, rubbing her legs and stroking her neck,” according to a 2009 arrest warrant affidavit obtained by the L.A. Times. Citing email exchanges, the affidavit alleged that Striegel told the teenager he wanted to pursue a sexual relationship with her and asked her to keep it a secret.
Olivia Munn has taken to social and traditional media to explain why she asked to have the scene removed and to also contend this is another battle in the #MeToo movement. Additionally, she has been critical of her other costars for not being more vocal and publicly supporting her actions. Sterling Brown, one of the other actors in the film, was a bit late to the party but said this on Twitter:
What I take issue with…is that we all have the right to know who we’re working with! And when someone has been convicted of a crime of a sexual nature involving a child, we have the right to say that’s not okay!
Recently we have seen a lot of justified outrage from the public because the Catholic Church helped conceal the crimes of sex abusers within the church and ultimately kept many of them from being prosecuted by civil authorities. In the case of Striegel you have a man who was convicted of a crime, served his sentence, continues to comply with the law and has now been subject to further retribution beyond the legal system. I find myself in the unpleasant position of defending a known sex offender, because celebrities have used mob justice and a contemporary social movement to punish him.
In much the same way that the First Amendment means we sometimes have to listen to opinions that we don’t agree with in the public space, our justice system should also guarantee that once you have served your sentence, the public doesn’t get to further punish you in whatever way they choose. At the core of this conversation should be the notion that people can make mistakes, albeit terrible ones, and still go on to be good people. Having always believed in second chances, I was very pleased when the Obama administration made efforts to help convicted felons re-integrate into society by pushing for laws that forbid potential lawyers from asking about those convictions at the beginning of the hiring process. Many of us understand that we have an enormous incarceration problem in this country and too much emphasis on punishment instead of rehabilitation. While we are a country that firmly believes in the idea of self-improvement, we are unfortunately also a country that seems to relish punishing people for their failures. I do not want to fall into the Progressive habit of praising Scandinavian social policies too much, but when it comes to prison systems, the United States could learn a lot.
What this conversation also highlights is the need to end sex offender registries. They are too ripe for abuse and in many cases amount to double jeopardy, as evidenced by Munn acting as judge and jury a second time for Striegel, because she was able to legally learn of his past crimes through a government-created registry. Unfortunately, sex offender registries have withstood Supreme Court challenges twice, but this was based on bad facts, as Justice Anthony Kennedy demonstrated in the case of Smith v. Doe (2003) :
Alaska could conclude that a conviction for a sex offense provides evidence of substantial risk of recidivism. The legislature’s findings are consistent with grave concerns over the high rate of recidivism among convicted sex offenders and their dangerousness as a class. The risk of recidivism posed by sex offenders is “frightening and high.”
Also from Wikipedia:
According to a study by law Professor Ira Mark Ellman and Consultant Tara Ellman, statistics cited by Justice Kennedy are “false ‘facts'”. The study found that in McKune v. Lile, the solicitor general provided only one citation to support its claim “that the recidivism rate of untreated offenders has been estimated to be as high as 80%.” According to the study, the source for the claim was the “U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections, A Practitioner’s Guide to Treating the Incarcerated Male Sex Offender”, released in 1988. The study found the Practitioners Guide itself cites only one source which originates from “a mass market magazine aimed at a lay audience”, and was bare assertion with no supporting citations by a treatment program counselor, who is not a scholar and has no expertise in sex offender recidivism. Furthermore, the article was about counseling program the counselor run in Oregon prison, not about sex crime recidivism. The study concludes that the claim of high re-offense rates among all sex offenders, and the effectiveness of counseling programs in reducing it, was merely “unsupported assertion of someone without research expertise who made his living selling such counseling programs to prisons”, and that use of the unsourced statistics in McKune v. Lile was irresponsible.
I have known several people, anecdotally all mothers of young kids, who routinely make a habit of checking the sex offender registries for their area. I have heard comments from them like, “Can you believe that they are in this neighborhood?” as though sexual deviants only reside in certain zip codes (not to mention the fact that there are plenty of well-respected suburban men on sex offender registries for propositioning prostitutes). I would also note here that the linkage between gay men and pedophilia, something that has been thoroughly debunked, is also one of the most onerous defenses of the Catholic Church scandal. The myth of recidivism is an equally problematic justification for running convicted sex offenders out of neighborhoods or in situations like Striegel’s, damaging their career or public reputations well-after their sentence was finished.
I remain convinced that the best thing we can do to solve a multitude of societal ills is to be an inclusive as possible. It’s easy to argue for an autistic child to be mainstreamed in a school system or for a minority to be allowed equal access to an institution. It’s much harder to argue that convicted criminals, especially ones that were convicted of the most reprehensible of crimes, should be brought back into the light. Still, it’s an argument worth making. To the best of my research, the actor targeted by Munn, has not repeated his offense and should now be allowed to try to resume a normal life. Pushing him back to the margins is the worst thing we could do and seems to be the tactic most likely to actually cause a repeat offense. There is a lot of value to the current conversations about abuse that are taking place in Hollywood, but in this case I believe they have pushed too far.
Photo by Greg2600