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Court reverses counselor's sexual misconduct charges

April 26, 2005
By: Josh Hinkle
State Capital Bureau

The Missouri Supreme Court reverses a St. Louis school counselor's sexual misconduct charges... declaring the law that delivered his fate unconstitutional. Josh Hinkle has more from the state Capitol.

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As a counselor at Patrick Henry Elementary School in St. Louis, at times James Beine had to break up distruptive boys in the school restroom.

But one day in 2001, a trip to the restroom turned into a four-year legal battle, where Beine found himself struggling for freedom.

Three boys under the age of 14 say Beine exposed himself to them in the restroom.

The charge landed Beine with a 12-year-prison sentence... and the hope that the Missouri Supreme Court might be able to correct what he saw as a misunderstanding.

This week, the Court directed the St. Louis Circuit Court to acquit Beine on all counts. In addition to insufficient evidence to prove that Beine exposed himself in a manner that was likely to cause alarm to the boys... the Court also concluded the statute under which Beine was charged was unconstitutional.

The statute, according to the Court, is overbroad because it prohibits , in part, something Beine had a right to do, but was able to be punished for an act that was essentially innocent.

The Court says, "A man using a public restroom necessarily must knowingly expose himself" to use the restroom. The Court says exposure alone cannot be judged as a criminal act: "If that were the case, no person ever would be able to use a public restroom."

In this decision, the Court also offers up ideas for state lawmakers: Should the state consider new alternatives in protecting children in these types of situations, leaving the question of whether children and adults should have separate restrooms in Missouri schools.

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