The Counsellor's Corner
I wish I were making this one up. Sometimes, stories that I read are so warped that if I were not certain they were true, I would have a hard time accepting that they took place.
The latest, almost beyond belief situation occurred in Dallas, Texas, where an immigrant from Nigeria impregnated his 14-year-old stepdaughter after having her sign a contract to have sex with him and bear him a son. The defendant Mr. Iheduru, who is 47 years old, used the defense that in Nigeria, this type of agreement would not be illegal and he did not know that it was illegal here. I am certain many of you have heard the old expression, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse," and Mr. Iheduru found that out the hard way.
If he is to be believed, this all started when Mr. Iheduru learned that his wife-to-be could not bear children. The contract stated that Iheduru would continue to have sex with his stepdaughter-to-be until she became pregnant, and if it was a boy, the girl's mother and he would keep the child. If it was a girl, which he did not want, the 14-year-old would get to keep her. Well, it was a girl, and Mr. Iheduru did not want his daughter, or his granddaughter, or however one should refer to the baby.
During the jury trial, the 14-year-old testified that this contract was agreed upon due to pressure put on her by her mother. The child indicated that her mother led her to believe Mr. Iheduru would not marry her as she was no longer fertile, unless the 14-year-old would agree to bear him a son. While the 14-year-old did not want this, her mother put so much pressure on her that she finally felt guilty about the fact that if she did not agree, her mother would lose this "wonderful catch" so she signed the contract.
This then led to an active sex life between Mr. Iheduru and the 14-year-old. It was understood that if the young girl did not submit to his desires whenever he wanted, she would be sent packing. In some of the most ludicrous testimony I have ever read, Mr. Iheduru testified that "he couldn't remember how many times he had sex with the girl, but that he remembers not enjoying it.... It meant no more to him than fulfilling the contract." This testimony makes Bill Clinton appear to be straightforward. It leads me to wonder why Mr. Iheduru's lawyer put him on the witness stand if that was what he was going to say, because he didn't exactly help his case. Admitting you committed statutory rape, if not actual rape, is not exactly a defense in this case. The jury was clearly not conflicted in the rendering of its decision, and Mr. Iheduru was convicted in 15 minutes. It often takes a jury that long to pick the foreperson.
This case then took an interesting twist. In Texas, the jury does the sentencing as opposed to that which happens in California. The jury had the option of a sentence of a minimum of two years to a maximum of twenty years. As I followed this case, I assumed the jury would give the defendant twenty years or something close to that, however, the jury indicated that they felt the 14-year-old's mother was significantly at fault as well, and they sentenced Mr. Iheduru to only three years in prison. In Texas, he will have to serve one year and seven months before he can be paroled and it is extremely likely that he will be deported upon his release. I would prefer the deportation hearing be held now and if he is to be deported, there doesn't seem to be any reason to house him and feed him at the public's expense for nineteen months.
Fortunately, the 14-year-old's mother has been charged with sexual assault of a minor and is awaiting trial. If she is convicted, has justice been done? I would think that the appropriate parties will have been found guilty, however it seems as if the jury went easy on Mr. Iheduru. What he did was in effect twist an already sick mother into manipulating her 14-year-old to sign a contract which she was not competent to sign so that he could have sex with the young girl. In the State of Texas, one cannot sign a contract that is enforceable until one reaches the age of 18, and in this case her signature meant nothing. What it did was allow Mr. Iheduru unlimited sexual activity with a minor and help to create a situation for him wherein he could hope to have a son. And then he hides behind the fact that this is supposedly legal in Nigeria? You've got to be kidding. I say throw the book at him (with the contract in it) and throw away the key.
Dr. Charles J. Unger is a criminal defense attorney in the Glendale law firm of Flanagan, Booth & Unger, and a therapist at the Foothill Centre for Personal and Family Growth. Mr. Unger writes a bimonthly column on legal and psychological issues.