Anyone who thinks former Kanakuk Kamp director Pete Newman and his lawyers were expecting two life sentences (plus 30 years) when they walked into a Taney County courtroom Thursday have not looked closely at the record of the psychologist hired by the defense team.
Newman received his life sentences Thursday after pleading guilty earlier this year to felony sex crimes involving underage boys who were under his charge at Kanakuk, a Christian sports camp based in Branson.
The sentencing was originally scheduled for April 30, but was postponed to June 9 so his chief witness, Dr. Joseph Plaud, could be in court. Dr. Plaud has a long record of recommending freedom or light sentences for sex offenders, including violent ones. In the hundreds of cases in which Dr. Plaud has testified he has never once said that a sex offender cannot be rehabilitated.
Published accounts indicate Dr. Plaud charges $200 per hour for "testing" the sex offenders he is paid to represent and over a five-year period the Boston-based psychologist has billed Massachusetts taxpayers for nearly half a million dollars serving as the go-to shrink for public defenders representing defendants in sex cases.
Plaud does not limit his expertise to Massachusetts, having testified across the country as a hired gun for defense lawyers.
And sometimes, as in the case of Pete Newman, Dr. Plaud's testimony seems to fly in the face of what is considered established fact in psychology.
On Thursday, Dr. Plaud testified that Newman could be salvaged, adding that Newman was not a pedophile, but was a "victim of repressed homosexual urges."
Someone should have asked the doctor if Newman's teenage victims had been girls would it have been because of repressed heterosexual urges.
Dr. Plaud said if Newman's homosexual urges could be controlled, he would never offend again.
Of course, considering some of the other offenders Dr. Plaud has vouched for, you have to take his testimony with a grain of salt.
In 2009, Plaud told the Boston Herald, "I have never testified that someone is sexually dangerous. The best statistics show that most sex offenders don't reoffend."
He never said where those statistics came from, but the statistics must not have included David Partridge, one of those who was released based on Dr. Plaud's testimony. Partridge went on to rape and threatened to kill a Fitchburg, Mass. woman. Dr. Plaud vouched for Partridge despite a record that included two violent rapes, one of a 13-year-old girl.
Another defendant who received the benefit of Dr. Plaud's testimony was Antonio Maderos. The judge disagreed with the doctor's assessment that Maderos would not reoffend even though Maderos' rap sheet included the 1989 rape of a 14-year-old girl, and then three sexual assaults after he was placed on probation.
And that wasn't all. Dr. Plaud still recommended Maderos for release even though after Maderos was once again placed on probation, he was charged with raping his 14-year-old son.
It must have been those repressed homosexual urges.
No matter what you think about Dr. Plaud's consistent efforts to free sex offenders, the one thing you must never do is to accurately describe him in court.
In a 2008 Schnectady, N. Y. case, Dr. Plaud testified against the civil commitment of career sex offender Christopher Houghton, who had sexually abused eight children by the time he turned 13. After being institutionalized until he was almost 20, Houghton was released and almost immediately sexually assaulted two teenage girls.
Dr. Plaud had an explanation for Houghton's criminal activities, according to an article in an October 2008 edition of the Schnectady Gazette. Substance abuse and other factors, the doctor said, had caused Houghton to have "a lapse of judgment."
His testimony was not persuasive and Houghton was committed, but that judgment was overturned in 2009 because the attorney for the state prejudiced the jury by referring to Dr. Plaud as "a hired gun."