There’s yet another controversy over California’s three-strikes law after a man was convicted of a relatively minor gun felony. But the issue shouldn’t be “why is this guy going to jail for the rest of his life for a minor gun crime” but rather “what sort of sick, twisted system ever let this guy out?”
Charles Rothenberg is scum who should have died in prison. Apparently his fellow Californians agreed, and he obtained that illegaly-obtained gun to protect himself from citizens who felt the state hadn’t done enough to protect society from monsters like him.
In 1983, Rothenberg took his six year old son to California to see Disneyland. The problem was Rothenberg was divorced, and had lied to his wife to make her think he wasn’t taking the child out of New York state. The wife threatened to use the incident to permanently revoke Rothenberg’s visitation rights.
So Rothenberg took the child to a hotel room, gave him a sleeping pill, doused him with gasoline, and then set him on fire. The child survived, but was burned over 90 percent of his body.
And how did the state of California protect citizens against such a monster? It released Rothenberg from jail after only 6 1/2 years. Six and a half years?? For setting a child on fire? WTF?
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, he apparently even revelled in the negative attention he drew,
When he testified last week, Charles portrayed his life as one of near-constant harassment since being paroled in 1990. He said he had to keep moving and leave jobs because people would recognize him. In 1997, he said, someone on Market Street yelled, “That’s the man who burned his son” and fired two shots at him.
When police showed no interest in investigating, Charles said, he bought the gun, ammunition and a holster for $500. He said he changed his name in 1998 and was constantly afraid someone would harm him.
“I’m always aware that the possibility existed that I was going to get hurt or worse,” Charles testified. “I can’t think about it all the time. I try to live a normal life. I do the best I can.”
He spoke softly, sometimes hesitantly. At other times, he appeared defiant, accusing the prosecutor of trying to manipulate him into saying he had not been in immediate fear for his life on the day the gun was found.
Prosecutors argued that far from being fearful, Charles had gone out of his way to attract attention. They noted that he had appeared on TV talk shows with Larry King and Maury Povich in the mid-1990s, and they said that at times he would walk into a restaurant and announce his presence to diners.
Why the hell did California ever let this guy out?
Man who burned son looking at third strike. Jaxon Van Derbeken, The San Francisco Chronicle, February 9, 2005.