How much attitudes have changed regarding the crime that dare not speak its name was evident Monday in Circuit Court Judge James Williams Jr.'s Aiken courtroom.
A 65-year-old chemist who had worked at Savannah River Site and was active as a Baptist youth minister for decades finally got what he deserved following his conviction on child molestation charges.
Because of his age, and a long, carefully cultivated community image of kindness and respectability that belied the heinousness of his despicable crimes, Robert S. Dorsett clearly hoped to get off with a brief jail term -- or, perhaps, just probation.
Why not? After all, he is, as the judge characterized him, "a pitiful old man," who, when confronted with evidence of his offenses, pled guilty to 15 sex crimes involving children dating back to 1970 -- and promised he'd get help and turn himself around. He had 14 friends and family members vouch for his good intentions.
In an earlier era, this would have gotten him the slap on the wrist he sought. But times have changed. Instead of looking the other way and sweeping the "embarrassing flaw" in this so-called "decent man's" character under the rug, society is, rightfully, taking a much harsher view of perverts who prey on the young and vulnerable.
Judge Williams rejected Dorsett's claim of turning over a new leaf as being too little, too late. Dorsett knew he was a sick man 40 years ago, the judge said, but chose to indulge his perverse passions instead of seeking counseling or help. Too many lives had been ruined or damaged since then to take Dorsett's mea culpa seriously now.
Then the judge came down on Dorsett like an avalanche, sentencing the pervert to a 30-year prison term. The only good deed Dorsett ever did, said Williams, was to plead guilty and spare victims the agony of going through a trial. One of the victims in attendance at the sentencing is 43.
Dorsett will be eligible for parole in 10 years but, say authorities, given the nature of his crimes it's not likely he'll be granted one. In all likelihood, he'll die in prison.
Some of the older victims felt badly that they hadn't turned Dorsett in earlier. They didn't realize that pedophilia was blossoming into a serious social problem. But the only person who should feel horrible is Dorsett. He finally got what was coming to him.
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