Ethics Quiz: The Child-Molesting Pitcher

Luke Heimlich is a rising college baseball star pitcher at Oregon State,  and may well have a future in Major League Baseball. There is a problem though:  Heimlich, 22,  pleaded guilty to  sexually molesting his 6-year-old niece when he was 15 years old. The further complication: he denies that he committed the crime, which was not just one incident but a pattern over two years. He told The New York Times that he only pleaded guilty to ” for the sake of family relations.” “Nothing ever happened,” he told the paper. The girl’s mother, however, says there is no question that he was guilty.

I’m tempted to say that it’s no wonder he pleaded guilty when he was 16. One of the charges was dropped and he was placed on two years’ probation, took court-ordered classes and had to register for five years as a Level 1 sex offender, which in the state of Washington means a low risk to the community. He had to write a letter apologizing to his niece. After five years, the records were expunged and he no longer has to register as a sex offender. What a deal!

Last year story was broken by the newsmedia, and now there is a controversy over whether Heinlich should be allowed to play college baseball. Brenda Tracy, a victims’ rights activists, asked the Times,

“What kind of message does that send our kids?” she asked. “We have now normalized this behavior. The feeling at Oregon State right now is that our team is winning, so they’ve moved on. What does that say to the little girl in this case? What does it say to all survivors?”

Then there is my concern: what does it say about this man’s character that he pleaded guilty to get a lenient deal, and now blandly says that he was lying? I’d view him as more trustworthy if he admitted the crime, was remorseful and repentant, and accepted responsibility. If he did molest the girl, and still denies it, one can hardly say that he has been rehabilitated.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Should Luke Heimlich be allowed to play college baseball?

I’d like to see the polling on this…

26 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: The Child-Molesting Pitcher

    • Seriously though; what needs to be considered is this, in days gone by a minor was allowed to move on with their life after he/she became of age and the record were sealed and they didn’t have to publicly carry these bad decisions as public boat anchors for the rest of their life. I’m, not saying that that old way of doing things is right, but have we moved away from that?

      As it stands; he made a plea deal – it’s done all the time, he plead guilty, he paid his price, his records were expunged, we may not “like” it but he should be able to move on with his life after he was done with the court ordered conditions. He shouldn’t have lied now or said he lied back then, he is making bad choices now too.

      The #metoo attack dogs are now out to crucify him for life. Right or wrong, innocent or guilty, there is no defense against these viscous attack dogs and they know it.

      Kinda off topic…

      I’m waiting for something terrible to happen as a result of these #metoo attack dogs destroying the lives of their targets years and years after the fact. Now it seems that if you brushed up against some snowflake in some situation you’re likely to be publicly smeared as a sexual abuser and your life will be destroyed. Once these attack dogs sink their teeth in, you’re done.

      I’m still waiting for some of those bar flies that roamed the meat markets in the late 70’s to start making claims of sexual abuse against their many sexual partners. Let me tell you, the things you saw back then when you worked in those bars/discos wouldn’t allow most of those old patrons, now in their 50’s & 60’s, to pass the #metoo or the social justice warriors purity tests.

      I find the modern social trends very troubling. Is it a generation gap or something else?

      • The ‘trouble’ is that I believe you will find many more liberal/progressive offenders than conservative, given the philosophies involved. One side believed in morals and ethics, and the other has not for a decades. (now both sides are slouching toward Gomorrah)

        The net which they cast for others is tangling their own feet. They WILL have to stop this movement, or sacrifice so many fellow travelers that they are politically neutered. My job is to get out of the way, when my avowed enemy is destroying themselves.

        My popcorn is ready. Let the games begin.

  1. We only are shown one potential outcome when the boy was 15 or 16. If we assume that he is telling the truth now what were his choices then. If he contests the charge and is found guilty then he might have to register as a sex offender for life and his record would not be expunged. We do not know what legal advice he was given.
    I was given lots if bad advice by adults when I was a teen. I doubt I was alone in being coerced into admitting something to a parent who has already assumed your guilt irrespective of the facts when the expected punishment is predicated on telling the adult family member what the kid knows what they want to hear.

    We also do not know what the prosecution had as evidence. We dont even know what the original charges. I have to wonder why the prosecuter offered this relatively lenient deal if the case was a slam dunk for a conviction.

    If we assume juveniles should not be shackled for life for the mistakes they make as juveniles then we must allow him to move on if he has satisfied the punishment and not engaged in any similar acts since.

    Let him play

    • As someone who has had to deal with the possibility of facing family court charges or taking a deal for a minor offense I can sympathize with his position. In the past I may have said let the truth come to light, but in the meantime you have to deal with expenses and psychological damage. I can’t say I believe him or not, but I can definitely see the reason he may have lied in the past to avoid complications.

  2. I want an unqualified “yes” to be added to the list, not a “sure….”

    I might not pick that, but, if “no” is an option, “yes” should be.


  3. I just saw something on the headlines a short while ago about two females (now grown women, I believe) who “came out” about being molested (while they were underage, I assume, i.e., children) by artist R. Kelly.

    So I must jump to conclude that the #MeToo bowel movement is now also, and soon in ever-growing, metastatic size, about the coming-out of persons who have accusations against males (ALL, and ever ONLY, against males) of molestation by those males when they, the accusers, were children.

  4. This is so weird. This situation is like… the perfect storm of oddity that leads people who I can normally predict with absolute certainty their position on any issue to surprise me.

    Especially on the left… I mean… The left has been pushing hard on criminal justice to curb the practice of predatory plea bargains, something we generally agree on. They’ve also pushed for policy that prohibits employers from asking for CRCs on applicants, on the auspices that once you’ve served your debt to society, you should be free to interact with society, which is something we generally don’t agree on.

    Which means that the lefties who had previously taken those positions, when commenting on this situation, would be taking a principled stance in saying either that they were skeptical of the original plea, or that having gone through the system, there should be no further consequences.

    But wait… there’s more! Luke is white, and so he loses major brownie points on the progressive stack, he is also successful, so there goes some more points, he also pled guilty to a sex crime. Well… That’s usually the final nail in the coffin right? A 6 year old (I know she’s 11 now) with an incestuous #metoo story? Since when have pesky things like facts or proof or context dampened the will of the left to sharpen the pitchforks?

    Except…. And I can’t explain it…. There is a surprising amount of support for Luke and skepticism of the plea floating around… And let’s be real: It’s not a huge amount of support and skepticism, but it’s more than I thought there would be.

    I’m just brainstorming here… But maybe the excesses of the #metoo movement are finally curbing the zeal of its adherents… Maybe the combination of issues is enough to muddy the waters so the masses en large are going to wait for signals from people they bubble in with…. I don’t know.

  5. Jack:
    “Then there is my concern: what does it say about this man’s character that he pleaded guilty to get a lenient deal, and now blandly says that he was lying?”

    Almost nothing. A 15-year old, not a “man,” made a decision with the assistance of counsel (apparently) to address a juvenile charge.

    He may have been provided unethical advice (“better to plead guilty, even if you are not….”), advice I NEVER give my clients, before he really understood that lawyers could be dishonest (who knew?).

    Plus, you add in the weird intricacies of juvenile records, expungement, pardons, etc. I had a client who got busted for making a false ID as a freshman in college. He got an expunged record, which we wanted, because he had dreams of being a doctor. 12 years later, he is still contacting me, because he does not know how to answer the hospital’s questions about whether he has been accused of, pled to, convicted, or charged with, a felony. This aspect of the law is very confusing.

    Sadly, he does not pay me for my counsel anymore….


  6. Does character matter in this case? Baseball is one of the few sports with character requirements, but assuming his debt is paid to society and the agreed upon terms were met, he shouldn’t he have the right to play?

  7. Hmm any evidence that this was “curiosity” or actual pedophilia? If it hasn’t been repeated then perhaps it was just a disastrous act from a very immature youngster. Otherwise I’m not convinced that a Pedophile can be “cured” for much the same reason that Homosexuals can’t be “cured” since that is just the way nature made them. We don’t have enough information to made a sound judgement.

    • Two YEARS of curiosity?

      Nah, a 14 year old in our society can access porn if they try at all… my boys being no exception (daddy is sysadmin; life sucks when daddy tracks your browsing)

  8. I don’t know, and I don’t want to choose answers among so many answers based on his original guilt. I won’t decide without more. I agree with earlier comments, the plea could have been good advice, or bad advice that shortened a legal nightmare. Much of why he took the deal was probably the hope to play ball.

    Looks like he served out the terms of the deal, and I always wonder when does punishment end? Isn’t the goal of the penal system to apply punishment and allow them to rejoin society? He was underage, and that part of the system gives an extra break because of young and ignorant. Won’t he be allowed to make use of his second chance? If he’s not allowed to have a job, have a life, do you really want to pay for permanent incarceration? Are you going to bring back capital punishment just over a teenage fool? What is the quality of mercy anymore?

    At this point he should be allowed to play, he paid his underage debt. Whether it was truly owed is no longer relevant and unprovable as it never went to trial.

  9. Up to OSU, but if someone refused to hire him for a conventional job based only on his record, which is supposed to be sealed and not count against him, that’s a different story and he might have a claim. If he pled guilty to the underlying facts or allocuted, then that’s a different story. This isn’t hugging that went too far or tickling that got out of hand (frequent cover stories, admittedly), this involves penetration of a child by someone old enough to know that’s wrong.

  10. We have watched close family friends go through this ordeal. There, the grandfather molested his two granddaughters. He went to prison (for about 10 years), his wife stood by him, and their children/grandchildren have nothing to do with either the grandfather or grandmother. In that case, he admitted what he did but asked for God and his family’s forgiveness. The children think there are certain sins that cannot be forgiven, but his wife chose him over her own daughters and granddaughters. I repeat this story only to say that when it is a family reporting abuse by another family member, a lot more thought and worry goes into the reporting because of course family relationships will be ruined forever. It is a lot easier to report a stranger, teacher, caregiver, etc. So, my suspicion here is that the college pitcher probably is guilty as hell. If that is the case, should he be allowed to have a career? Well, the law says he does — he has served his punishment. It is up to his college and eventual employers to determine if they want someone with such a tarred reputation on their books. I certainly would not buy a ticket though.

  11. I worry that every crime has become a life sentence. I don’t know what really happened, I don’t know what he really did, I don’t know if he is unrepentant or if he is bristling under the lifetime stigma of pleading guilty to something he didn’t do. Should we let someone like this in college? Let them play baseball? Well, as much as it may seem distasteful (to me, at least), I think we should let them do whatever they are allowed to do. How many college players have theft, robbery, or assault charges and are playing? If we want to be consistent, shouldn’t we treat those the same way? There is a strong impulse to punish ‘bad’ people, but where does it end? Is there a legal reason he can’t play? If not, it is a judgement call. Where do those judgment calls end? No past felonies allowed, then no past misdemeanors, no whites allowed, no Republicans, no Christians? If we don’t allow people we view as ‘bad’ to have a different future, we condemn them to always be ‘bad’ people in society. Worse, if we can create ‘bad’ people from our prejudices, what does that do to society? If you feel these people don’t belong in society, that is fine. Just be honest about it and lobby for their humane execution rather than force them to live on the edges of society surviving by a life of crime.

  12. I’ve been waiting to share this since I read this blog post and I just got the “okay” to share this story about an old friend. If this reveals my identity to people that have knowledge of these events please respect my choice of anonymity.

    I can tell you that sometimes the accused get terrible, terrible legal advice, my friend was one that got such terrible advice.

    Many, many, many years ago my friend was advised, by his attorney and a prosecutor, to plead guilty to a statutory-rape charge about six months after he turned 18 for having sex with a minor girl. The thing is that he never had sex with her but yet he was being accused of it both legally and he was being smeared in the public. He had actually only been on a few of dates with her when we figured out she was a minor, if I remember right she was about to turn 17 – she looked older. My friend dumped her, it was a public rejection revealing that she was lying about her age and she made quite a scene – I was there.

    The attorney that advised him to plead guilty was fired and he got an attorney that would fight for him. In the end it turned out that the girl had proven herself to be a pathological liar and this was just one in a long line of big revenge lies she had concocted over the years. It was really interesting that her mother was the one that got directly involved in this case and due to her involvement it was eventually proven by a medical doctor that the girl was still a virgin. I was told that the prosecutors face fell off the front of his head when the evidence was presented to him. The case was dropped before it ever got to court but the accusation stuck in the minds of the public. It’s amazing how that accusation of raping a minor stuck like glue on my friend, people presented the accusation as some kind of evidence that he was a terrible person even though it was completely false. He ended up moving from the area as a result of having to prove himself innocent over and over again. I’m sure there are still people that would think he is a rapist or worse just because he was accused.

    You would think that moving away was pretty much the end of the story; nope, there’s more.

    A few years after this took place my friend was in a bar a couple of states away from where this all had taken place and ran into this girl, now an adult, with her boyfriend. He didn’t know she was in the bar until her boyfriend confronted him with the accusation that he was the guy that had gotten away with raping her when she was a minor. My understanding is that it came very close to a physical confrontation but he was able to convince the boyfriend to allow him to prove his innocence with actual documentation that he had saved (his attorney advised him to keep everything related to the case in a safe place). You’ll never guess how he got the guy to allow him to prove his innocence; this pathological liar girl had changed her name and that came out in the confrontation and the boyfriend hadn’t known anything about that. The next day, my friend allowed the boyfriend to read the documents plus he got to see photos of the girl as a teenager to prove it was the same girl. He learned that she was a pathological liar, actually thanked my friend for helping him dodge a bullet, and he dumped her. The last I heard anything about the girl, she was in a prison somewhere out west.

    I can tell you for a fact that just being accused of a sex crime, especially with a minor, sticks with you regardless of innocence that’s why these #metoo accusations from years gone by are so damaging and no one truly knows whether they are true or false but the accusation will stick for life and destroy the accused.

    My personal opinion is that if you choose to plead guilty when you’re innocent, you’re an idiot.

    • Damn. That’s a sight worse than me having to prove myself innocent of harassing a girl I didn’t even know all that well in college by proving I was somewhere else at the time the alleged harassment happened. It’s stories like that that make me glad to stay far, far away from the opposite sex. Too many people just assume that the woman is always telling the truth and the man is always lying. Even if the man was exonerated, it’s never because he was actually innocent, it’s always he lied, or he got to someone, or he covered his tracks a little too well for the charges to stick.

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