Just after 8 PM on July 20, 2014, Elissa Alvarez, 20, and Jose Caballero, 40 had consensual sex on Cortez Beach in Manatee County, Florida. Witnesses videotaped the encounter and called 911. The couple was arrested and charged with felony lewd and lascivious exhibition, and the case proceeded to trial, with the prosecutors in the case initially seeking an “absurdly draconian” 15-year prison sentence for Caballero. A jury convicted them on May 4.
On Wednesday, Alvarez, who has no previous criminal record, was released from jail after accepting a plea for time served. She will now have to register as a sex offender. The state is now seeking a 2 1/2-year sentence for Caballero, who has a prior drug offense. He will also have to register as a sex offender.
Twelfth Circuit State Attorney Ed Brodsky, who bragged of prosecuting serious sex crimes when he ran for the position, joined in prosecuting the couple.
This case is an example of stark raving madness in the criminal justice system. Sex offender registration will follow both of these individuals for the rest of their lives. Nearly all employers now perform background checks, where the sex offender registry is the first item listed in the results of the background search. This case is also an example of the common prosecutorial practice of guilty plea extortion in today’s broken criminal justice system. If you are charged with a non-violent crime, and you have the utter temerity to take the case to trial instead of taking the plea, you end up with a more serious permanent record (and more jail/prison time) than violent offenders who actually harmed people- but took a plea. In other words, if Caballero had actually raped a woman but dealt the case from the outset, the prosecution would not have threatened him with fifteen years in prison to begin with.