Thursday night, a sex offender stepped in front of a microphone and tried to explain himself to his new community of Belmont, Massachusetts. ""My name is Carl Peterson. 'I'm the level 3 sex offender all of you have been talking about," the 48-year-old told his neighbors in the high school auditorium.
In an extraordinary piece of writing, Belmont Patch editor Franklin Tucker describes what happened next.
The problem is all you know, all you get to know about my problem is what you read ... which says I'm the most dangerous and the most likely to reoffend of all sex offenders. It also says my offense was the rape against a child," said Peterson, as state officials, law enforcement and Belmont Police who spoke earlier stood behind him. Speaking in a calm, slightly high-pitched flat voice, Peterson described in the most general terms a single incident, an assault, he committed on his 14-year-old niece in 2000.
Things soon got heated however,
"I don't want to hear this!" a women cried out from the back of the hall, breaking the tension with the outburst.
"Just go!," said another.
"It happened over the course of a weekend 12 years ago," said Peterson.
"Nobody cares," came another response.
But for the majority in the hall, Peterson's admission was compelling.
"This is important," explained a resident who said she came to the meeting not knowing anything about Peterson or even the issue of a level 3 sex offender living in town.
The town continued to express their unease:
"One of the scariest thing while spending time in prison was wondering ... that it will not happen again," said Peterson, saying that he has been in therapy for the past eight years with Dr. Carol Ball, a licensed psychologist in Arlington and a founder of New England Forensic Associates, "to answer that question."
"At this point, I know that it will never happen again," said Peterson.
Peterson finished his appeal to the community by reminding that he himself was a father of a 14-year-old and that he was not himself immune to the fear of sex offenders living in their community. But again, he assured them he was no threat.
At the end of the meeting, as the audience was leaving, a smartly-dressed man came up to Peterson, shook his hand and said it was a "brave" thing for him to acknowledge what he did and present himself to the town.
Peterson simply nodded and stared straight ahead.