Democrats trying to make political hay out of the resignation of Florida Republican Congressman Mark Foley should take a good look at their own party. There was Bill Clinton’s last minute pardon of former Rep. Mel Reynolds, D-IL, who had been imprisoned for having sex with a 16-year-old staffer. (He was later hired by Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition; both Clinton and Jackson had also had sex with subordinates.) There is the case of Rep. Barney Frank, D-MA, whose office housed a prostitution ring. However, less known is one Hawaiian case, in which more than seven high ranking Democrat senators and representatives (and one Republican) worked to assist one Leon Rouse – a convicted child molester serving time on underage sex charges in the Philippines. Rouse, now released after 8 years in prison, was hired last session as an employee of a Democrat-controlled Hawaii state Legislative Committee. 2008 Democratic presidential hopeful Russ Feingold also came to his defense, along with a Clinton-era U.S. embassy and more than half-a-dozen Democrats.
Arrested in the Philippines on October 4, 1995, and later convicted for paying 200 pesos to have sex with a 15-year-old boy, Leon Rouse served eight years of a 10-to-15-year sentence in New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City. After complaining of kidney stones, he was released by the Philippine authorities on September 29, 2003, and immediately deported to the U.S. As a condition of his release, he was banished from the Philippines for life.
In spite of being a convicted child molester, Rouse has received extensive help from many elected Democrats and one Republican. According to the May 22, 2005, Honolulu Advertiser:
U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, D-HI, and U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-HI, informed a friend of Rouse’s on Maui that they had written to the Philippine ambassador to the United States. Both the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, D-HI, and U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-HI, wrote to the State Department.
In Rouse’s home state of Wisconsin, U.S. Sen. Russell Feingold, D-WI, and U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-WI, along with several U.S. House members, wrote letters for Rouse. U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-PA, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, wrote to the State Department, as did U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, among the most liberal members of the House of Representatives…
Former Big Island [Democratic] State Sen. Andrew Levin wrote to the American ambassador in Manila to look into whether Rouse was denied due process. Levin also asked then-[Hawaiian Democratic] Gov. Ben Cayetano’s office for advice about whether the [Democrat-controlled] state Legislature should pass a resolution requesting that Congress investigate Rouse’s plight.
Former Hawaii State Democratic chair Richard Port wrote a 2005 opinion column in support of Rouse.
According to an October 29, 2002, article in the Wisconsin gay community newspaper In Step:
Rouse has been actively pursuing his case from prison, personally and through family and friends, contacting several members of the U.S. Congress for help. Rouse and supporters wrote letters to Rep. Gerald Kleczka, Rep. Tom Barrett, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Tammy Baldwin, Sen. Russell Feingold, Sen. Herb Kohl, and Sen. Daniel Inouye. Personal pleas were also made to the Philippine Ambassador to the United States and other government officials, all to little effect.
In recent years, Rouse also corresponded with [then-] Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland. Weakland wrote a letter to Cardinal Jaime Sin of the Philippines, asking for help on Rouse’s behalf.
(Weakland, one of the most liberal Catholic Archbishops, resigned in disgrace in 2002 after revelations of a sex-and-hush-money scandal.)
It is not clear whether Pelosi acted in support of Rouse; it would be most instructive to find out, as she has demanded House Republican leaders step down if they failed to act in response to Foley’s advances toward an underage boy.
The Clinton-era U.S. Embassy in Manila contacted the Philippine authorities on Rouse’s behalf. (The arrest came nine months after the Philippine authorities thwarted an al-Qaeda plot, known as “Operation Bojinka,” to bomb numerous commercial flights out of Manila – including at least one headed for Honolulu.)
Given these levels of support one might expect that Rouse had an exculpatory story, but even the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a July, 2005 report on an appeal by Rouse – a report which Rouse claims proves his innocence – describes the circumstances of Rouse’s arrest in damning terms:
Around noon on the day of arrest, he [Rouse] arrived at Pichay Lodging House, where he saw Harty Dancel, a former acquaintance, accompanied by two individuals, Pedro Augustin and Godfrey Domingo. The four of them had lunch in a restaurant, where Dancel offered Godfrey to have sex with the author. The author refused, arguing that the latter was too young, even after Dancel insisted and assured him he had reached the age of majority.
Later in the day, the same three persons waited for the author at his hotel. Dancel had them invited to the author’s room. After the author [Rouse] had taken a shower, Dancel and Augustin left the room, leaving him alone with Godfrey. The latter requested to use the bathroom, where he undressed. When there were knocks on the door, the author opened, and police officers entered. At that moment, neither the author nor Godfrey wore clothes.
In the initial Philippine court decision the events are described thus:
On or about the 4th day of October 1995, in the City of Laoag, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the herein accused did then and there, willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously by using his adult influence and promising to pay 200 pesos ($3.79 US), engage one Godfrey Domingo, a male child who is below 18 years of age, as in fact he is 15 years old, for lascivious acts and committed said acts by masturbating and sucking the penis of the child and inserting his penis into the anus of the child all of which acts were committed by the accused on said child at Room 205 of the Pichay Lodging House at Laoag City, but which acts although already performed by the accused on the child was discontinued due to the intervention of the police who apprehended the accused who was then naked and in the company of Godfrey Domingo who was also naked in Room 205 of the Pichay Lodging House.
Rouse appealed all the way to the Philippine Supreme Court where his appeal was denied on April 23, 2003.
When Rouse was deported back to the United States, he returned to Hawaii where he had been a gay rights activist in the early 1990s and helped State Senator Brian Kanno, D-Kapolei, launch his political career. Rouse’s activism extends back to his native Wisconsin, where the gay magazine Blueboy describes him as the first to use gay rights as an excuse to drive the military off campus:
The current nationwide movement to force ROTC, and by extension the Department of Defense, to stop discriminating against sexual non-conformists or to get off campus began in 1982, when Wisconsin became the first state to pass a lesbian and gay civil rights law. Two students at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Eric Jernberg and Leon Rouse, decided to ask their school to adhere to the spirit of the new law by suspending participation in the ROTC program if that program continued to violate the terms of the statute.
The anti-military campaign started by Rouse in 1982 was finally put to an end 24 years later by the unanimous March 6, 2006, Supreme Court ruling upholding the Solomon Amendment which requires federally funded colleges to allow access to military recruiters.
Democrats’ support for Rouse extends beyond helping win his release from prison. When he returned to Hawaii, State Senator Roz Baker, D-Maui, gave Rouse a recommendation for a cabin-boy job with Norwegian Cruise Lines. Rouse took the job May 2, 2004, but didn’t last long. On June 11, 2004, he was fired and thrown off the ship at a port call in California after being accused of sexually harassing his male co-workers.
When news of Rouse’s firing reached his friends in the Hawaii Legislature, they immediately sprung into action. According to an article in Hawaii Reporter:
Kanno asked his colleagues, both House and Senate elected officials, to sign a letter demanding that the company rehire Rouse or pay him restitution and travel expenses. The letter dated Aug. 24, 2004, to Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), was signed by Democrat Senators Kanno, Baker, Suzanne Chun Oakland, Brian Taniguchi and Carol Fukunaga – all chairs of their respective committees. In addition, House Chairs Roy Takumi, Kenneth Hiraki and Eric Hamakawa [all Democrats] signed the letter.
Kanno also introduced a resolution (SR65) requiring the cruise line to detail its sexual harassment policy, and demanded that the state Department of Taxation consider mandating the cruise line pay Hawaii’s 7.25 percent transient accommodations tax. The Senate members who signed the resolution include: Sens. Carol Fukunaga, Roz Baker, Brian Kanno, Gary Hooser, Clarence Nishihara, Ron Menor, Russell Kokubun, Kalani English, Colleen Hanabusa and Brian Taniguchi. [All are Democrats.]
Hooser, Hanabusa, and Menor were all competitive but unsuccessful candidates this year for the Democratic Party nomination for Congress, 2nd District of Hawaii.
When NCL refused to bend to the legislators’ demands, Sen. Kanno helped Rouse get a job as office manager for State Representative Rida Cabanilla, D-Waipahu. Rouse resigned that position in April, 2005 as news of his criminal record came to light. But that was not the end of Rouse career as a legislative aide. In full knowledge of his conviction, Rouse was then hired in a new position serving one of his original sponsors, Sen Roz Baker, D-Maui, as a legislative assistant. This made Rouse the only employee of a State legislature anywhere in the United States known to have a criminal record for child molestation.
Rouse’s position under Baker expired with the end of the Hawaii Legislative session. It is possible he will be rehired for the next session.
Those who wish to instruct the Republican Party on how to deal with pedophiles might begin by purging such as Rouse from their ranks.
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