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David Epstein, a professor at Columbia University, has been arrested and charged with incest for allegedly having a consensual sexual relationship with his adult daughter. The Columbia Spectator reported the news just this morning and it has already made international headlines. It’s a testament to the strength of the incest taboo, not to mention our thirst for new twists on the classic student-teacher sex scandal. In this case, the 46-year-old political science professor isn’t alleged to have had sex with one of his students but rather his 24-year-old daughter, who is in the same age bracket as most of his students. What’s more, his wife is a tenured professor at the university.
It has all the sordid ingredients to supply tabloid headlines for days, but far more interesting — at least in my nerdy universe — are the laws behind this case and others like it. After all, the relationship in this case allegedly began after Epstein’s daughter reached the age of consent. It isn’t a clear-cut case of child abuse, and there are no allegations that the three-year-long relationship carried on without the daughter’s consent. Although, as we saw with Mackenzie Phillips, many argue incestuous relationships between parent and adult child can never truly be consensual. I went to law professor J. Dean Carro, who defended a noteworthy case in which a man was convicted of incest for having sex with his 22-year-old stepdaughter, to better understand how our legal system tackles this near-universal taboo.
Generally, in cases like this involving “consensual activity within the home,” it comes down to the question of whether the government has “a compelling state interest” in regulating the activity. “Some courts recognize that the government does have an interest in regulating incestuous conduct because of the risk of pregnancy and the heightened risk of genetic defect,” he says. Other courts will convict even without such a risk: In Ohio, a sexual battery statute states that a stepparent should never have sexual contact with a stepchild (and that is regardless of age). Most courts are concerned about parents preying on their children, he said. “Regardless of the age of the child, there’s still a theory that a parent is always a parent, a child is always a child and, as a result, there truly can’t be a consensual sexual act.” That explains why the daughter isn’t charged in this case. “The idea is the perpetrator is the parent and the victim is the child. We don’t normally prosecute a person falling within the protected class, and you remain a member of the protected class even above age of consent.”
The prosecution of “consensual” adult incest is relatively rare because most cases often don’t come to the surface. “Unless somebody becomes aware of it, it occurs and people never report it,” he said. When it is reported, it’s usually because the other parent finds out about it, he said. And, if it involves someone in any way connected to fame or prestige — an Ivy League school, say — you can guarantee the media will find out about it.
Masayuki Ozaki’s marriage lost its spark some years ago and although he still lives in the same house with his wife and daughter, he also has a live-in girlfriend, a life-sized doll called Mayu.
Ozaki, a 45-year-old resident of Tokyo, admitted to having felt a deep sense of loneliness before “meeting” Mayu.
"But the moment I saw Mayu in the showroom, it was love at first sight," Ozaki said.
Today, he takes his doll on dates in a wheelchair and dresses her in wigs, sexy clothes and jewelry.
Recalling his wife and daughter’s reaction to his new companion, Ozaki said that they were furious with him and there were many scandals in his home. His daughter freaked out saying that it was “gross” but eventually after sometime they managed to come to terms with it.
Each year in Japan, around 2,000 life-sized dolls are sold. Their price ranges from 600,000 yen or $5,300.
Hideo Tsuchiya, managing director of doll maker Orient Industry, said that technology has come a long way since the inflatable dolls of the 1970’s and today silicone dolls look and feel unbelievably real.
The dolls are especially popular with disabled customers, widowers, mannequin fetishists and some men who prefer avoiding human relationships.
"People always want something from you like money or commitment," Nakajima said, AFP reported.
He and his rubber squeeze have framed photos together at his home and he even takes her skiing and surfing.
Nakajima had a fall out with his family after getting involved with Saori but he doesn’t regret it.
"I don't want to destroy what I have with her,” Nakajima said.
According to another Tokyo resident whose home is full of dolls and Japanese erotica, Yoshitaka Hyodo, in the future more guys will choose relationships with dolls because according to him, “It's less stress and they complain a lot less than women.”
"People might think I'm weird, but it's no different than collecting sports cars. I don't know how much I've spent but it's cheaper than a Lamborghini," Hyodo noted.
As researchers continue to work to develop next-generation sex dolls which will be able to talk, laugh and even simulate an orgasm, it is possible that the rising demand for silicone temptresses will only rise in the future.
PUBLISHED: June 15, 2013 at 11:01 pm | UPDATED: November 6, 2015 at 8:31 pm
Peter Martin Ebel was many things to many people when he became a fugitive from justice in Minnesota 22 years ago.
To the students and faculty of St. Croix Catholic and Stillwater Junior High schools in the late 1970s, he was Edward Alan Scott, a published author, accomplished photographer and stern but brilliant math and Latin teacher. He also taught one of his proteges how to fly an airplane.
To officials of a boys academy in Georgia, he was Dr. Ebel, a respected and renowned child researcher based in Albania.
But much of what people knew about the man, now 54, was a deception — from his relationship with children and teaching background to the doctor credentials that led to felony drug charges against him in Minnesota in 1979.
Ebel jumped bail in 1980, and his whereabouts remained a mystery to authorities and others for two decades, until he was arrested last year and then pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges in Los Angeles.
Today, as Ebel sits in a federal prison cell awaiting sentencing and a possible mandatory minimum 10-year prison term, federal authorities and those who came in contact with Ebel are wondering aloud how many child victims there may be in Minnesota and elsewhere.
Ebel was detained at a California airport Sept. 7 and later was arrested after he was caught with sexually explicit pictures of young boys. In the process, federal officials learned he had been convicted 34 years ago in England on a sex-related charge.
Ebel’s court-appointed attorney could not be reached for comment.
“I’m wondering … if we’re just scratching the tip of the iceberg here,” says Rodrigo Castro-Silva, the federal prosecutor in California handling the case.
“There were a lot of kids he came in contact with here,” says Allen Klein, a former Stillwater Junior High student who filed a lawsuit in 1993 against St. Croix Catholic School and in a deposition alleged that Ebel had molested him.
Klein, a 38-year-old Plymouth resident who is publicly coming forward for the first time, suspects there may be other victims besides him.
“My desire now is to confront (Ebel) face to face and talk to him about what he did to me,” Klein says.
EDWARD ALAN SCOTT
Interviews with more than a dozen people nationally and a review of court documents portray Ebel as an enigmatic Renaissance man who impressed people with his knowledge of subjects ranging from medical surgeries to nuclear power plant operations.
Ebel, actually a 10th-grade high school dropout from Morrison County, N.J., and using Edward Alan Scott as an alias, secured a job for the 1976-77 school year as a math teacher at the St. Croix Catholic School. The school, also known as St. Michael’s School, shared physical education and other courses with a nearby public school, Stillwater Junior High.
“He was brilliant, had a vocabulary to die for, and he was teaching a summer photography class to area kids,” recalls Brandon Crawford, then a St. Croix teacher and now the head of its middle-school program. “At the time, we were in need of a math teacher and he supplied us with what seemed excellent credentials, like his education in England.”
Known as “Mr. Scott,” Ebel had written two books under the pseudonym of Reynolds Locke. One dealt with anthrax mutation. The other, published by the now-defunct Stein & Day publishers, was called “Mayday 747” and involved the aftereffects of a jumbo jet crash. A third book, “Soldier of Eden,” a purported nonfiction account of an orphaned American boy who became an Arab freedom fighter in Libya, was published in England in 1987 under the pen name of James Congdon.
After joining the faculty, Scott quickly gravitated toward a small core group of students, school officials said. One of them was Klein, a bright seventh-grader with six siblings and the product of a troubled home. Scott befriended Klein and his family and taught him how to fly an airplane. Meanwhile, posing as Dr. Peter Martin Ebel, he was duping a pharmacy in Maplewood into filling bogus prescriptions for Valium and codeine, according to charges brought later.
Suspicions were raised at both schools when the nurse at Stillwater Junior High received a note through Scott from a Dr. Ebel asking that Klein be excused from taking a shower because he had been diagnosed with scoliosis.
Don Hovland and Steven Studer, then principal and assistant principal at Stillwater Junior High School, and Sister Kathleen Foley, then principal at St. Croix, denied the request and confronted Scott about his credentials near the end of the 1976-77 school year.
A short time later, Ebel took Klein to England on a supposed trip to treat him with growth hormone drugs not available in this country, according to Klein and others.
Klein was in fact among three boys taken to England with their parents’ permission, all of whom “returned with drug dependency problems,” according to a Maplewood police incident report. The children, according to the report, refused to talk with authorities about the trips or their relationship with Ebel.
Officials at both schools compared notes and secured copies of bogus drug prescriptions Ebel had obtained for Klein’s mother and others and as well as for himself, according to court records.
Scott was booted from the school after one year on the job and subsequently charged in Ramsey County District Court on June 10, 1979, with two felony counts in the drug case.
A Stillwater family that had rented an apartment to Ebel posted $500 bail on his behalf. He left town during a pretrial hearing in early 1980, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.
His fugitive status ignited more suspicions about his relationships with Klein and a handful of other students. During one of his trips to England, he had brought back with him a boy. The boy, Crawford learned years later, committed suicide after returning to England.
“I guess we didn’t know much about these things back then, and in hindsight there were red flags,” Crawford said last week after learning of Ebel’s arrest in September. “But there was nothing blatant. The parents trusted this man. The kids never told us what if anything happened.
“There was nothing we could get our hands on.”
U.S. Customs Service agent Randy Karavanich was ready when Swissair Flight 106 landed at Tom Bradley International terminal in Los Angeles on Sept. 7, 2001. Ebel was on board and, because of a tip from officials at Gables Academy in Stone Mountain, Ga., he was suspected of being engaged in child pornography or molestation.
Ebel, who claimed to be a researcher for a nonprofit group in Albania, had approached the school three years earlier and persuaded it to invest in an exchange program and a school to be built on the strikingly beautiful shores of the Adriatic Sea. In return, Ebel’s adopted son, a 13-year-old, received English language classes at the academy.
But the therapist wife of James Meffen III, the school’s headmaster, became concerned after traveling to Albania and uncovering what she considered a disturbingly close relationship between Ebel and several boys.
A check of Ebel’s criminal background by the Customs Service disclosed the 1980 warrant from Minnesota as well as an arrest in 1968 by Scotland Yard police in England for an “indecent assault” on a minor under 16. Ebel was put on three years’ probation for that incident.
Karavanich was surprised to find Ebel in the company of three boys from Albania, including an 8-year-old suffering from what was later diagnosed as a genetic blindness disorder that could only be corrected in the United States.
Ebel was allowed to leave after airport authorities seized a laptop computer, a digital camera and several computer disks in Ebel’s belongings.
Chandice Covington, a professor of nursing at UCLA and a medical researcher who had befriended Ebel after learning about his alleged research into the development of Albanian males and the nutritional impact of iodine deficiency, said, “I was highly suspicious at that point, and the bells started going off in my head.”
It took three weeks for authorities to discover digital and hard-copy images of naked boys masturbating each other and other pictures that had nothing to do with the research. Meanwhile, Covington, who had offered her Westwood home to Ebel, contacted Los Angeles police after she found the kids one morning tearing up sexually explicit pictures of themselves and flushing them down her bathroom toilet.
Ebel was arrested, and the boys, one of whom was suffering from sexually transmitted warts on his face, were reunited with their families in Albania. Ebel pleaded guilty to one count of manufacture of child pornography and is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 19 in Los Angeles. The blind boy is allowed to return periodically to undergo a series of surgeries to restore his eyesight, Covington said.
Officials in Minnesota are not sure whether Ebel will be extradited to face the outstanding charges.
“To be frank, the charges here are peanuts compared to what he is facing in California,” said James Konen, an assistant Ramsey County attorney who initially handled the drug-related case. “To my knowledge, we never received any information about (suspected child molestation).”
Like many others, Covington expressed surprise at the Minnesota connection, but not at the nature of the arrest.
”Who knows how many victims there are out there?” she says. “He certainly duped a lot of people along the way. But he is living proof that pedophiles don’t come in black and white. He’s a brilliant man who did try to help out some kids, like the blind boy. But he is also a sick and evil man.”
TIMELINE: PETER MARTIN EBEL
1968: Peter Martin Ebel is convicted in London for indecently assaulting a minor younger than 16.
1976: St. Croix Catholic School in Stillwater hires Edward Alan Scott — one of several aliases linked to Ebel — as a math teacher. The school also shares physical education and other courses with a nearby public school, Stillwater Junior High School.
Summer 1977: School officials find his credentials fraudulent and terminate him.
1978: Ebel reportedly returns to the United States after a trip to England, this time posing as a doctor working for the “Nuclear Regulatory Agency.”
1979: School officials suspect Scott is posing as “Dr. Ebel.”
June 10, 1979: Ebel is charged with two felony counts of filling out drug prescriptions.
Jan. 16, 1980: He fails to appear for a pretrial hearing.
1980-99: Authorities have no idea of his whereabouts.
1999-2001: Ebel, claiming that he heads an Albanian-based nonprofit organization and conducting a growth development research project on Albanian males, makes contact with a private boys academy in Georgia. He persuades school officials to build an exchange program in Albania.
Sept. 7, 2001: Ebel is detained in Los Angeles in the company of three Albanian boys and is released after his laptop computer and several CD-ROM disks are confiscated pending a forensic examination.
Sept. 10, 2001: U.S. Customs Service agent Leo Lamas uncovers several images of the genitals of several naked prepubescent boys, including one of the boys who accompanied Ebel on the trip. Ebel asserts the pictures are part of his research.
Sept. 20, 2001: Dr. Laura Ticson of the Vulnerable Child and Sexual Assault Center in Los Angeles says the images are undoubtedly child pornography.
Sept. 28, 2001: Ebel is arrested and charged with possession and manufacture of child porn.
June 10, 2002: Ebel pleads guilty to one count of manufacture of child pornography.
Aug. 19, 2002: Ebel is to be sentenced.
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