Monday, December 01, 2003

America becomes Korea 2: Adultery laws!

Adultery is a crime in South Korea-- i.e., there are government regulations about private sexual morality there. And apparently, adultery is on the books in Virginia's criminal code-- and in other states, too! Here's a snippet from the Washington Post fo' yo' big behind:

When John Raymond Bushey Jr. became the first person in as long as anyone can remember to be convicted of adultery in Virginia, several things happened:

He resigned his position as attorney for the Shenandoah Valley town of Luray, Va., a job he'd held for 32 years.

People who heard of his situation scratched their heads and said, "You mean, adultery is actually a crime?"

And those who wade into the messy aftermath of alleged infidelity -- divorce lawyers and private investigators -- started pondering what impact the ruling would have on their jobs.

As for the folks in Luray, they're just curious about what the snowy-haired Bushey -- 65 years old, married for 18 years to the town clerk and the very model of a courtly Southern lawyer -- was up to.

"You always hear gossip, but you never know what to put any credence to," said a woman who works on Luray's Main Street. Like virtually everyone else interviewed in the town of 4,500, she spoke on the condition that her name not be used when commenting on the Bushey case.

Because the charges were filed in Virginia's lowest court, there are no records that reveal exactly what Bushey did, with whom he did it or why prosecutors would pluck such a rarely used statute from Virginia's criminal code and apply it to him. Bushey declined to be interviewed about the case. And the prosecutor wouldn't give many details of Bushey's Oct. 23 guilty plea, the result of a plea agreement.

"There's nobody peeping in a window saying, 'Mr. Bushey did this,' " said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Glenn R. Williamson, when asked how authorities found out about the indiscretion. The complainant, he said, was the woman involved with Bushey. She has not been charged.

Although he pleaded guilty in District Court, Bushey is allowed to appeal to Circuit Court. On Halloween, that's what he did. More details might come out when the case goes before a judge Jan. 27. Until then, Williamson isn't discussing the case, beyond saying, "I think that the state has an interest in protecting the sanctity of marriage.

Like other Class 4 misdemeanors in Virginia, adultery carries a maximum penalty of a $250 fine. Bushey paid half that, plus $36 in court costs. Adultery is also against the law in Maryland, where the penalty is a fine of $10, about the cost of a pecan bar and two large caramel macchiatos at Starbucks. The District will soon join about half of the states in the country by repealing its adultery statute.

Prosecutors in the Washington area couldn't recall the last time anyone around here had been charged with adultery. Many laws seen as holdovers from an earlier morality have been repealed in periodic overhauls of state statutes. The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in June striking down Texas's anti-sodomy statute has prompted many states, including Virginia, to scrutinize laws concerning private acts between consenting adults.

The Virginia State Crime Commission has spent the past three years studying the state's criminal code and next month will recommend repealing its sodomy statute and the fornication statute, which prohibits sexual intercourse between unmarried people.

Also recommended for repeal: "Conspiring to cause a spouse to commit adultery," a leftover from the wild days of fault divorce, when a wife might hire a woman of questionable virtue to seduce her husband and a camera-toting private investigator to kick down the door of their love nest.

Adultery, though, has held on, even though the commission staff said the Supreme Court's ruling in Lawrence v. Texas could be interpreted to suggest that Virginia's anti-adultery statute is unconstitutional.

Go thou and read the rest.

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