John Grisham, hawklike legal eagle, millionaire bestselling author, spokesperson for middle-aged white pedophiles … oops. How did that one slip through the publicist’s net? Through Grisham’s own mouth, it seems, relayed via the UK’s Daily Telegraph in an interview taped for your enjoyment and judicial edification. And the legal opinions vouchsafed therein are interesting to say the least…
Grisham complains about the harsh sentences meted out to consumers of pornography, even child pornography, and bemoans the fact that: “we have prisons now filled with guys my age, 60-year-old white men in prison who’ve never harmed anybody, would never touch a child, but they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever.” Then he cites a personal experience:
A friend of mine, ten years ago, was drinking. His drinking was out of control. And he went to a website — it was labeled, 16-year-old wannabe hookers, or something, some stupid website. And it said, 16-year-old girls. So he went there. Downloaded some stuff. It was 16-year-old girls who looked 30. You know, they were all dressed up and whatever. He shouldn’t have done it, it was stupid. But it wasn’t 10-year-old boys and he didn’t touch anything. And golly, a week later there was a knock on the door. FBI. And it was a sting set up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to catch people—sex offenders. And he went to prison for three years.
I am very interested to know how Grisham, as a lawyer, would argue that going to a website “labeled, 16-year-old wannabe hookers” – or something – is somehow succumbing to accidental temptation, never mind the downloading that followed. And I am also very interested to notice that he inserts the word “white” into his checklist of characteristics of the poor abused victims of these cruel and unjust laws. Is Grisham implying that if they were 60-year-old black or Hispanic men, it wouldn’t be quite so bad? And I’m also moved to wonder, as others do, whether Grisham really thinks that pedophile crimes against young girls are less heinous than those against young boys.
Furthermore, given the precedent (okay, literary, not legal) of other literary cases of writers who were later found to be pedophiles, I wonder if there’s any sense scouring the collected works of John Grisham to find traces of any hidden messages of advocacy on behalf of middle-aged pedophile men? Could the age difference between Darby Shaw and Professor Thomas Callahan in The Pelican Brief be a covert endorsement for 60-year-old-and-below white men to go out and seek sex with younger women? Can we be certain of the temper of public morals while a single Grisham book remains at large?
That’s not quite as silly as it sounds, though. Remember that this is the same John Grisham who sued Oliver Stone and the producers of Natural Born Killers on the grounds that it encouraged violence. Is there now some activist group out there that might sue John Grisham, on the grounds that his opinions, as a respected writer on legal questions, might encourage other 60-year-old white men to go out and download pictures of “16-year-old wannabe hookers” – or worse?
For any brave activists out there, though, just remember: Grisham has considerable resources to defend himself in court, aside from his own legal prowess. According to CelebrityNetWorth, “John Grisham is a prolific American author who has a net worth of $200 million.” No wonder he’s a member of another group of (mostly) middle-aged (mostly) white (mostly) men: Authors United. That’s an awful lot of legal fees – for Grisham himself, or for advocacy of legal reform on behalf of other 60-year-old white men, who had too much to drink and went out and …