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French-kissing Bill Would Ban Pop's Smooches



After the husband of her child-care provider made it to first base with her then-10-year-old daughter, a Varina mother is pushing for legislation to criminalize such May-December make-out sessions.

The bill's sponsor, Delegate Riley Ingram, D-Hopewell, also is carrying the so-called "Ed Barber bill" to ban convicted sex offenders from holding elected office.

"You don't think these things happen, but they do," Ingram says. He initially didn't believe the legal loophole story he was told by Sydney Smith (name changed), whose daughter was victimized by Roland Delbert Knight Jr. of Varina. "The person was convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, but that's all."

Knight was convicted in June 2005 of contributing to the delinquency of a minor for his forced make-out session with the child, who was in the care of his wife, Barbara Knight. State law did not provide for a more severe charge, and Knight wasn't required to register with the state's sex-offender registry.

After a brief jail stay, Knight was back at home, where his wife continued to operate a day care. Barbara Knight was also put in charge, by judge's order, of ensuring that her husband has no "unsupervised contact" with minors.

That Knight was back in daily contact with kids -- following the letter of the judge's order, but not the intent — still incenses Smith.

"I'm still very angry, because this could have been handled differently and he could have been on a sex-offender list, but he still isn't," says Smith, whose quest to change the law will not change Knight's punishment.

"The offender in this crime has already done all his time. It's not going to affect him or his family in any way," she says. "But it's going to help another child out there."

Ingram's bill would amend the state code on sex offenses with minors, stipulating in not-so-delicate language that it's a felony for, say, 60-year-olds to French kiss 10-year-olds. "If it happened to my daughter," he says. "I would want the same thing."

Ingram says he hopes his bill passes muster with his fellow legislators, but worries that some will struggle with the question, What's the threshold for age-inappropriate French kissing?

"This bill is not intended in any way, shape or form to [deal] with someone who's 19 and someone who's 16 or 17," says Ingram, who doesn't want to become the man who rained on a thousand teenage first dates.

"It's not drafted that way," he says. "But if a man is 50 or 60 years old, and he's trying to French kiss an 8-, 9- or 10-year-old, there's something wrong with that person and they need to be punished accordingly."

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