March 14, 2008 -- Parents may not want to hear it, but it's just a fact: Lots of teenagers are having sex.
About a quarter of 15-year-old girls and boys, almost 40 percent of 16-year-olds and about half of 17-year-olds say they've had sex. But what if parents of the girl find out? And they're furious? In many cases, they can use the law to punish the boy.
In the fall of 2007, when Damon Hadley was 17, he had sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend. School authorities caught them cutting school and called their parents. The girl's father then drove to the school, where he saw Hadley in the parking lot.
"So I hit him," said Gilberto Soto, the girl's father. "Do I regret what I did? No. Would I do it differently? Yes, I would, I would." And what would he do differently? "Now? Take that kid, stick him in the car, tie a rope around his neck and go as fast as I could up and down the highways, every single highway there is," he said.
'I Wanted Him Away From My Daughter'
Soto's daughter told him Hadley had raped her, but she later told the police that Hadley didn't force her and that she made up a false report because she was scared.
"[Having sex is] something that she brought up before I did, so I thought it was something she wanted to do," said Hadley.
In New Hampshire, the age of consent is 16, and Hadley received a three-month suspended sentence. That means if he gets into trouble before the end of this year, he may have to serve that three-month sentence.
Soto got a one-year suspended sentence, and he's angry that Hadley didn't go to jail. "He should've done at least a year," he said.
In one respect, Hadley was fortunate because he wasn't put on New Hampshire's sex offender registry.
Jeff Davis -- who also ran into an angry dad -- wasn't so lucky. He was an 18-year-old with a 15-year-old girlfriend, and they were having sex.
"It was the norm," Davis said. "It really was. There are a lot of teenagers these days that are having sex. We thought we were very much in love, we were in high school."
His girlfriend's father, Mark Putorti, didn't think the relationship was good for his daughter Alexis. Her grades at school had slipped and he thought Davis was a bad influence. "All I wanted was him away from my daughter," he said.
Putorti had the law on his side because Alexis was 15 and the age of consent in Connecticut is 16. He warned Davis to stay away from his daughter, or else. But Davis didn't believe him. "Thinking there was no legal recourse, I figured it was a dad who was angry and couldn't really do much about it," Davis said. But he was wrong.
Putorti went to the police, and they arrested Davis. "I was processed, fingerprints, photos," Davis recalled.
At the time Alexis was furious with her father, but today she says that her dad was right and that Davis took advantage of her.
"I don't want to say he directly pressured me, but I think that you can definitely, as an older person, put indirect pressure on somebody to do something they may not be ready to do," she said.
Branded for Life
Davis was convicted of sexual contact and risk of injury to a minor. He's on the Connecticut sex offender registry right there along with Douglas Simmons who kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered a 6-year-old (the details of the murder conviction don't appear on the registry because of a plea deal in his home state) and James Sullivan who sexually assaulted a handicapped woman. Looking at the registry, it's tough to know how Davis is different from those dangerous men. And, Davis says, some people look at him like he's a pervert.
"They come across as if I were sitting in the bushes in the park waiting for someone to walk by," he said. "They don't understand I was in a relationship with a girl in high school."
The police warn his neighbors that he's a sex offender and vigilantes make sure his neighbors know. "They'll print out copies of my page from the registry. They'll drive around the neighborhood, throw it out the windows," he said.
Today Davis is a volunteer firefighter. He used to dream of working full time as a firefighter, but because he's a registered sex offender, he says he'll never get that job, even though he's certified.
"I can't become a paid firefighter," he said. "I can't even apply at some places because they ask you before they even give you an application. They see it on the applications and it doesn't go any farther than the hiring process. I get put into a basket and put [by] the wayside."
Putorti has little sympathy for Davis, who he says should have stayed away from Alexis when he told him to. And, he says, having Davis arrested was just what his daughter needed.
"Wasn't something I wanted to do, and it wasn't something I'm proud that I did, in a way. But looking back on it, I don't regret having done it, either," he said. "The proof's in the pudding, really. She went back and really knuckled down in high school and graduated."
Putorti says the statutory rape law saved his daughter. "Oh yeah. No question," he said.
And Alexis agrees. "I think this is a good law for these situations. If Jeff had gone to jail, I would have thought that was way harsh," she said.
'It's Really Ruined Everything'
While Putorti is glad he intervened, Bill Howey, who took similar actions, has regrets about wielding the force of law.
He was furious when he learned his 14-year-old daughter Brenda had slept with 18 year-old Jonathan Evans. "Within 12 hours after I found out, we had him arrested," said Howey. He called the police because he had been told erroneously that Brenda had been raped.
"I was an equal partner in everything," Brenda said. She denied that Evans pressured her into it.
But that didn't matter because it was a crime, even if consensual. Evans pleaded guilty to a lewd and lascivious act with a child under 16, was placed on the Florida sex offender registry and went to jail for a year.
As a sex offender, Evans was not popular with fellow inmates. Other prisoners threatened to kill him. "Everybody perceives you as, you know, you're messing with little girls. And you're just a dirty, sick person that should be shot," he said.
Because he was in jail, Evans couldn't finish high school. And as a registered sex offender, he can't join the Army.
"That was my lifelong dream, to be in the military," he said. "[But the] U.S. Army doesn't want some kind of sex offender in their Army. There's no room for that. It's really ruined everything."
Evans is unemployed and lives with his fiancée and her two children, near some worried neighbors.
"When I first took my stepkids to the bus stop, you see the parents and they look and they start whispering," he said. "You might as well just make a cattle iron that says sex offender on it and brand my forehead, because that's basically what they do to you is brand you for life."
Kids are clueless about the legal consequences of teenage sex, says Arizona public defender Chris Phillis.
"We tell them you could get pregnant, you could get a disease. But we don't tell them they could be locked up for the rest of their life," she said. "Even if everyone says it's OK, that you know, they're consenting to the touching, the kissing, you could still go to jail."
Last year Bill and Brenda Howey tried to help Evans get off the sex offender registry.
"He's been a good guy. He's stayed out of trouble, he did what he's supposed to do," said Howey. "He came to me and he said, 'Bill, will you help me?' I said, 'yes, Jonathan, I'll help you.'"
They went to court, but lost. The law is the law. Evans is a sex offender forever.
"There's days where I just cry all day because of what happened and if I could go back and change it I would," said Brenda. "It was consensual, he shouldn't have to keep going through it."