Q&A: Question about safety

Anonymous writes: 

“Hope you are doing well. I had a question that I was wondering if you or your readers had any insight on. 

My
husband and I bought our first house a year or so ago. We have zero
home-maintenance skills, and have had several lousy contractors come
through. We finally found a contractor that we liked, trusted, and have
been happy with for the last year. He started out doing some small
projects and we were so happy that we used him and his team when we
wanted to embark on any larger projects since then. Coincidentally, our
son was born around the same time as his son, and we’ve been happy to
support a guy that has a small family like ours. 

Last week, I went on Google to try to find our
contractor’s email address (we usually just call him, but I had a list
of items I wanted to email) and saw a picture of him that looked a
little like a mug shot. I clicked through the link and found out that he
is a registered sex offender. He plead guilty early last year to
assaulting and raping a deaf woman he solicited off Craigslist in 2011.
He was put on probation, and as a violation of that probation, he was
sentenced to 50 days in prison. He is currently still on probation.

Needless to say, my husband and I are shocked and
more than a little disturbed. Should we screen all your contractors?
Some of them? Now that we know, do we hire him again (as I mentioned
earlier, we have a laundry list of items that need to get done)? Would
you?”

I wouldn’t hire him again. No. 

There are plenty of categories of crimes that someone could be on probation for that wouldn’t make me worry about hiring someone, but sexual assault is not one of them.

I’ve typed and deleted about six other things here, but the bottom line is just that I wouldn’t hire him again. I wouldn’t make any more contact. 

And it sickens me that someone gets only 50 days in jail for rape. 

Anyone else? 

 

0 thoughts on “Q&A: Question about safety”

  1. Wow….. No, I absolutely would NOT have any more contact whatsoever. I would also make sure that the Megan’s Law site had the correct information on him that you have. I’ve always gone by the thought that anyone can SAY anything, but good Lord…he pled guilty!! I’m not sure of the laws, but he may not legally be allowed to be doing this side work without informing people of his status. Nevertheless, he now knows your address, phone, schedule, etc. To be honest, I’d have a security system installed and run a complete background check on ANY other prospective worker. Where did you find the guy? Ad in the paper? On Craigslist? Friend of a friend?

  2. I would not hire him again. There are good contractors out there but you have to work to find them. Ask around or get a subscription to Angie’s List. I’m not sure what else I would do. I might sleep better at night if the locks were changed. I’m so sorry. That’s an awful position to be in. If by any chance you are in New England, we can narrow down the location through Moxie. I have a great contractor.

  3. Nope, I would not hire him again. And yes, I ask for the full name of any service provider who needs access to my house, then check them against Google & the Megan’s Law site. Shady contractors are notorious for casing clients’ homes for crimes later. Change your locks, get a security system (I love our Vivint system) and stay vigilant.

  4. If it were something other than sexual assault, I probably wouldn’t care, but it would make me profoundly uncomfortable to have someone working in my home who pleaded guilty to rape. I wouldn’t hire him again.

  5. How scary! I wouldn’t let him back in the house. I also suggest Angie’s List for finding reputable contractors. When contractors get popular on Angie’s List they tend to raise prices, so you won’t necessarily get the best deal, but you should get an honest person.

  6. This is a toughie. My mom gut says no. My other gut says "wait, less than 2 months in jail for rape? Why? Was there something else that happened?"

    How do you feel about it? What does YOUR gut say? Do you think you can trust him around the house? If you decide to hire him, your child needs to always be with a trusted adult. ALWAYS.
    I know in my state, you are listed as a sex offender for life. I would want to know more about the situation. I like to think that people can have second chances….

    But I think my gut would tell me to honestly contact him if he has a current job, that once he finishes, you need to move onto new contractors.

  7. Oh dear. I’m going to be in the minority here. I don’t see this as a safety issue AT ALL. I don’t see how this type of conviction presents a safety concern in any way. If you are uncomfortable with the situation, then by all means, don’t hire him. But also please don’t claim safety concerns.

    I’m not saying you SHOULD hire him, but I’d ask most of us to back off a little before we make claims that this man is unsuitable for contracting work. What type of work would be appropriate for him?

    I ask my husband about this bc he has been a state public defender for 10+ years. He works on appeals, and has dealt with hundreds of clients who have pled guilty to rape and assault. A guilty plea is often part of a bargaining agreement, not an out right admission of full guilt. BC of the light sentence, we should presume that the prosecution had a very weak case, and that the woman was unable to provide convincing testimony. We can probably presume the defense argued it was consensual, and the fact that the woman answered a solicitation ad (as opposed to meeting randomly in a bar or being an acquaintance) I know I’m wading into dangerous territory here and I want to make it clear that I am not blaming the victim (a word she deserves, as the man did plead guilty) but I do hope we can all agree that consent can remain ambiguous.

    I think there are a lot of examples that could be presented that may or may not be appropriate here. I’d love to see someone show up in this comment thread who has a family member with a conviction of sexual assault. There are a lot of sides to that conviction.

  8. First, let me make it clear that I’m sickened by rape and anything close to it, but my childhood preacher pled guilty to sexual assault and spent a year in jail because he didn’t want to drag his stepdaughter and family through any more mess. I know, I know. This sounds really fishy. But this is a good man. Seriously. As much as I can know it, I know that he is good. My brother was in the same circles as the stepdaughter, and she was a loser. Sorry that sounds harsh. All that said, I think I probably wouldn’t hire the guy after this job. Because you don’t know the truth, and it’s better to err on the side of safety.

  9. My comment doesn’t make complete sense. I was trying to say that the guy may not be guilty. But you don’t know and you don’t have a way to do more research or talk to people who may know more. So you are probably stuck with not hiring him in order to keep yourself and your family safe.

  10. Hi, I submitted this question. Spacemom, Sherry, and Katherine bring up points that my husband and I have really agonized over. There was no prison sentence associated with the original case, the 50 days of prison were for violating probation (in this case, leaving the location that he was supposed to stay in).

    My first instinct was also NONONONO, but our favorite story/musical of all time is Les Mis, and we’ve talked about how hard it is to get a second chance. We can only imagine how hard it must be to find a regular job. I don’t want to get into the details, but we know he could never get back into his old line of work as a registered sex offender.

    Barb, we either found him through Craigslist or Red Beacon.

  11. Oof, I’m sorry. I don’t think I can answer Anon.’s questions directly but have a somewhat similar experience so will share that and what I’ve done in case there’s some useful info. in there somewhere. A few years ago, a close member of our extended family of my parents’ generation — let’s call her great aunt Susie — was dying. I wanted to send her a gift so let’s say her husband is Robert Quiddick and they live in Asheville NC — I plugged, "Robert Quiddick Asheville NC" into Google and suddenly found myself thinking, "Huh. That’s funny — two Robert Quiddick’s in Asheville?" Since I knew our R.Q. wasn’t a sex offender. Only he is. He had pled guilty about 2 decades ago to two counts of what was likely statutory rape (that’s not the exact language of the state in which he was convicted, so it may mean something else, but as far as I can tell, that’s what it was) of a 13-year old when he was in his 50s (She was a neighbor. He served 2 months with daily release to go to his place of work and do his job.).

    There’s just no explanation that makes what he pled guilty to “OK,” no innocent interpretation (other than the sort Sherry describes above).

    Further background that isn’t directly relevant but shaped my thinking about this: my mom, who is in her 70s and lives alone, works through her church with a group that assists prisoners whose sentences are drawing toward their end with rejoining the outside world – finding jobs, homes, getting drivers’ licenses, etc. Looking at actual things she has done in this role, she has hired convicted murderers to do landscaping work at her home; I have spent Christmas dinner at her home seated next to and chatting with convicted murderers (not, to my knowledge, sex offenders). I’ll be honest, I have an easier time understanding and accepting murder (at least in some contexts) than sexual violence against a child (ditto) or, possibly, an adult. But still, they’re both obviously serious and dreadful crimes. My mother’s position on this, and mine in my better moments, is that these people committed crimes, have served their sentences, and deserve to be welcomed back into society and treated the same as all the rest of us, based on their current behaviors and not those in their past. (It won’t surprise you to learn that they do face many obstacles to successful “re-entry,” including finding jobs.)

    That background probably shaped how I reacted to what I learned about great uncle Robert. I looked up the actual court record, which I was able to find online by searching on the county and state name and some phrase like “court records” or “criminal proceedings” (the state wasn’t really NC and YMMV depending on the state/locality, but if it is a local charge – well it should be in the public record and findable if you want to, even if it requires a visit to a local records archive.) to be sure I had as much information as possible (that is how I found out the victim’s age and the plea and sentencing information.). I discussed it with a few family members and met twice with a counselor to talk through my thoughts, feeling, and possible actions. In the end I decided to do – well, not nothing, but not lots. I made sure DH knew and obviously we will never leave our son alone with, or vulnerable, to R. I decided that I will be sure my (adult) stepkids know about this before they become parents; something I do resent is that when I became a parent, no one in the family who knew this about R. informed me (or DH) since I do feel we should have the info to make our own decisions on behalf of our own family. And other than that I decided what’s past is past.

    Of course that’s a family member, not a contractor, so the decisions aren’t exactly the same. But FWIW you’re not alone in puzzling over what to do when you stumble across this sort of information. I had known uncle R. for ~15 years when I learned this (he’s on my DH’s side of the family), and would not in a million years have guessed it.

  12. I have a sort of related story that I’ll share with the purpose of saying that sex offenders are all around us and we have to find a way to coexist with them.

    When my son was in daycare, he had a teacher who was in her early 60’s I would guess. I was randomly searching for registered sex offenders in my town when I came across one with the same last name as the daycare teacher. It didn’t take much detective work to learn that the registered sex offender was the teacher’s son and that he currently lived with her, in my town, which is the same town as the daycare. I didn’t search deeper for the nature of the conviction but I did learn that the offender was in his early 20’s when it happened, so I came to the conclusion (not based on any facts) that it was probably statutory rape.

    This teacher often spoke fondly of her son and his girlfriend who also lived with them. I was torn. I know the daycare does background checks on the staff, but probably not their families. I didn’t know if I should mention what I found to the director. I ended up not sharing it with the director, but I did tell a couple of other parents I was close with because I knew that sometimes parents use daycare teachers as babysitters, but I hadn’t heard of anyone using this particular teacher. I knew I’d never ask her to babysit.

    Anyway, I’m not sure if I did the right thing or not. I didn’t want this teacher to potentially lose her job or ruin her reputation based on something her son did, but the fact that she worked with children made that complicated.

  13. I’m surprised that I haven’t seen this in the responses so far – but what about asking the person, when you’re thinking about who to hire for your next job? You could say it even as innocuously as, "I was looking for your email address one time and Googled you. I was really surprised to see the hits that I got. We’re torn – because we’ve been really pleased with the work you’ve done. Can you tell us more of the story?" It’s true that the whole story is probably much more nuanced than the initial hit you got or even the court records that you can find online. And the story that he tells you will probably be leaning in his favor, but I think you can still tell a lot about how he tells it and what he tells and his reaction to the question.

    The Public Defender story from Katherine is similar to an experience in our family. Court is like a crazy poker game where the attorneys don’t have nearly as much to lose as the person on trial.

  14. You can’t be too safe. Change the locks. Don’t hire him again. You’re gut is sending you warnings but because you already have a relationship with him you’re head is getting in the way.

  15. I wouldn’t let him anywhere near your child.
    I get, as someone said below, that there are "sex offenders all around us." And yeah, there are some cases–statutory rape, maybe, where the age difference was negligible and the sex was consensual–where sex offenders are nothing to worry about. And people can make mistakes and people can change.
    But sex offenders have high recidivism rates. Sex crimes are not something that is taken seriously by our victim blaming, blinders on culture. And sex crimes have horrific, lifelong consequences. So I would take this shit as seriously as you can possibly take it.

  16. I would not hire him again ever either, and would also change the locks. Because he isn’t who he says he is. It is one thing if someone has a record, and asks to work for you explaining he has one. He didn’t. You never would have hired him if you had known, would never have felt safe. It’s a case of thank Providence for the internet. Better to find out that way.

    I would rather hire a murderer than a sex offender too, as murder has a very, very low recidivism rate. Sex offenders are often charming and very good at putting people at ease. And off the scent. I can personally attest that the consequences for the victim are deep and lasting and the fact that other people don’t believe you and find the offender such a good guy despite you obviously not the first and not the last also has a lasting impact on you. Family offender in my case.

    Don’t take the chance. You owe him absolutely nothing. He was never open about his background, and it’s not like you knew and now are changing your mind.

    I am also renovating, and so far I have had one bathroom contractor who told me to F off after I wanted him to put something right under warranty. And he was recommended, had references. And we’ve probably lost thousands on a kitchen. That was becoming weird, so I did some internet research and the company’s finances have taken a very bad turn. Yes it’s only money, but a lot of it but happily finding this out meant we didn’t sink more money into, much more. We are lucky to have the internet. Lucky to get the chance to escape from harm.

    Wow, war and peace and off on a tangent. Say no and change the locks and find good contractors. I have found more of them actually than bad apples and our renovation is slowly getting there. Good people are out there too.

  17. This happened to us, but in our case I stumbled upon the fact that our HVAC contractor, a man who’d been in the house alone with me and my 3 year old daughter multiple times (long story, crappy construction), was a convicted child sex offender (custodial, shudder). The worst part: he always skeeved me out and I talked myself into being "nice," sort of ashamed of myself that I was being paranoid for no reason (ugh). So, he was fired instantly. By us, and by his main employer since he had not disclosed that he was on the registry. The OPs case is less clear, but the moral of my story is follow your gut. If you feel sick, end it all with the contractor. If you feel legitimately conflicted, not guiltily conflicted for lack of a better term, then, like a previous poster said, your only option is to ask him about it, openly, firmly and directly. Good luck. Sometimes the world is really scary.

  18. People who have served their time (no matter what we think of the amount of time) do deserve to get on with their lives…that is the whole point of release. I have no problem with them working at a job in a workplace…but that workplace cannot be my home. This story gives me flashes of Elizabeth Smart’s abduction. Her parents were trying to give somebody a break by giving him work around their house. Parents have to be very careful about whom we allow into our homes. Maybe I think about this so much because the Smart abduction was all over television while I was on maternity leave with my baby girl. While it’s true that somebody dangerous who has never been arrested is a risk you don’t know you are taking, I can’t see taking the risk with somebody that you know has been caught, tried, and sentenced. I’m not sorry. He can find his work someplace else.

  19. I’m going to preface this by saying that I understand that the conviction rates for rape are extremely, extremely low. So I would, in general, operate under the assumption that if a conviction was secured, it was probably a pretty strong case.

    However. My now-husband was arrested for a crime (a man exposed himself to children in a shopping center) based on a faulty identification. He did not meet the physical description that the children initially gave, but his car matched the description and so a sheriff stopped him in a parking lot and asked him to come "help rule himself out" as a suspect, and he readily agreed, only to find the kids crying and scared and pressured into IDing him. It was textbook bad policing, but he was arrested anyway.) It was the scariest time of his life, as he faced 20+ years — exposing yourself to children carries felony indency to minor charges. From the start, he was pressured to plead guilty to lesser charges, which would have carried no jail time and just probation. Thankfully, he was able to borrow money from relatives to get a really good defense attorney, who was able to obtain security footage from the shops in the shopping center showing that he was no where near where the exposure incident occurred at the time it occurred, but that took months and a private investigator to locate. The charges were eventually dropped because of the improper witness identification, with an apology from the judge and a scolding to the arresting officer, but he was out of work for over a year and his arrest will always be part of his Google history. It’s awful.

    So, having had that experience, and knowing that my husband might have actually given into pressure to plead guilty to something he didn’t do if the plea bargain offered no jail time, versus facing 20+ years if he went to trial, I do think that it’s worth considering talking to your contractor about. If you can get the court record, you can usually also call the prosecutor and get their sense of what the case was like.

    I know the easy answer is just to get another contractor, but it’s not easy to find good contractors, and I think the fact that he’s been in your home multiple times already lowers the "iminent danger" bar considerably.

  20. Hi, I submitted this question. Thank you all so much for your comments, each of them have been helpful for me and my husband. Anon for this, I am so sorry to hear about your husband’s case. I can only imagine the impact of that experience on your husband, not to mention his Google record.

    We are trying to get more information on our contractor’s case. Madelyn, I liked how you made the distinction between "legitimately conflicted" as opposed to "guiltily conflicted."

  21. This is going off on a tangent, but I am really bothered by Katherine’s comment that ‘I think we can all agree that consent can be ambiguous’, and felt I had to say something.

    It is never a good idea to leave consent as ‘ambiguous’. If you want sex with someone else and think they’re OK with it but aren’t sure – ASK. Because, if you go ahead without asking and it turns out you read things wrong and actually they weren’t OK with it, you’ve just raped them. You’d stand a good chance of getting away with it legally in today’s culture, but that wouldn’t make it OK.

  22. Whoever wrote that this guy is a danger to your kid is an idiot. He raped an adult, and while that is a horrible thing, it doesn’t make someone a pedophile. I would talk to him about it.

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