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Web's Most Wanted: WeTip.com Targets Suspected Statutory Rapists

Aired July 28, 2000 - 2:20 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Authorities in Southern California hope a new Web site will help them catch suspected statutory rapists. WeTip.com got 1400 hits in its first week.

CNN's Jennifer Auther has more on the story from San Bernardino.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JENNIFER AUTHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There was no question, she would prosecute. He was 29. Her daughter was 15.

"BRENDA", VICTIM'S MOTHER: Well, I didn't find out until she was five months pregnant.

AUTHER: Her daughter, now 16, was a victim of statutory rape and now mother of a 4-month-old baby. She is part of U.S. Justice Department statistics, which shows 67 percent of all reported sexual assault cases are victims under the age of 18.

Brenda's family lives in San Bernardino, California, a rural community where reports of statutory rape cases have more than doubled since 1995. Cases such as these prompted law enforcement this month to launch a rape Web site. It has photographs and descriptions of people with outstanding warrants for statutory rape.

CLAUDIA SWING, DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S INVESTIGATOR: I have been unable to locate these, our most wanted. People take it for granted that it is not a real crime, because the act of sexual intercourse is consensual.

AUTHER: It is a crime, in many places a felony. Several states already use the Internet to notify communities of sexual predators living nearby.

In San Bernardino, Verna Carey is deputy district attorney for the Statutory Rape Unit. She calls herself the anti-Cupid and says she wants to put the word jail back in jailbait.

VERNA CAREY, DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It's very easy for a 15- year-old to tell a 15-year-old boy, "I don't want to have sex with you, go away, leave me alone!" It's a lot more difficult when she's talking to an adult. AUTHER (on camera): Investigators say, a vast majority of girls who become pregnant as a result of statutory rape are then abandoned by the baby's father. In San Bernardino County, California, that means that teenaged mother becomes eligible for about $500 a month in public assistance.

(voice-over): If DNA tests confirm Arthur Ramirez is the father, he will be forced to pay back all welfare and MediCal money Brenda's daughter now receives. He was convicted and sentenced to two years in state prison for statutory rape in this case.

"BRENDA": It wasn't enough. I mean, my daughter has a lifetime sentence.

AUTHER: Jennifer Auther, CNN, San Bernardino, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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