Devils' Advocate

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But what if the victim was a minor?

"I'm going to consider taking it."

But does Karl have a cutoff, like will he take a case if a 16-year-old was allegedly molested, as opposed to, say, a 5-year-old?

Karl tsks. "You're bringing prejudice into it."

Often, Karl will review a file, make suggestions and send it back, letting the inmate deal with his own lawyer on it, so Karl never knows if his ideas worked.

He says he was successful in getting parole for a man named Milton Frey. Milton is not a sex offender; he was in for attempted first-degree murder and drove the bus at one of the prison facilities where Billy was held. Milton and Karl struck up a friendship.

"He's a brilliant legal technician when he puts his mind to it," Milton says of Karl. He knows this because of the 200-page brief Karl wrote to the parole board on Milton's behalf.

Actually, Karl says, it was pretty simple.

"There were no arguments. When you deal with the parole board, you've got to get your point across within the first five to 10 pages. The rest of it they won't read. You could cite poetry, the rest of it. I basically told them that I came to know him while he was driving the bus in Tucson, and I came to know his situation and stuff, and that on a personal opinion, I felt that he had learned his lesson and that he needed to be on home arrest, and I didn't cite any precedent, I just let them know the person he was, that he learned his lesson and everything, that I had insight into him because I always rode his bus and that I felt that was the best way for justice to be served in this matter."

And for the rest of the 200 pages? Karl says he literally did cite poetry. Dozens of pages of it. He can't recall the particular poet.

Since he's been out (and back in once, on a parole violation), Milton has benefited greatly from Karl's generosity. Karl found and loaned him the money to buy a Suzuki Samurai and got him a job. After nearly 12 years in prison, life can be confusing, Milton says.

"When I see something I don't understand, I'll call Karl."

Karl's latest rescue mission? Toni Windom. Toni and Billy met when Billy was incarcerated in Tucson. Toni was in for armed robbery, but had a prior conviction as a sex offender, so he was put in a sex-offender unit. He was released last year, but violated parole because he failed to keep the state updated on where he was living, a condition of a sex offender's release. He was homeless. Toni is back in prison. He was up for parole this summer, and Karl wrote the parole board a letter offering to pay for housing for Toni and monitor him until he could get on his feet. Toni's parole was still denied.

"Toni's one of the ones who wrote to me, hitting on me," Karl says. The one who called him Daddy.

In a letter, Toni says Karl's been a tremendous help to him. "Karl is one of a kind," Windom writes. They've corresponded for three years. Toni also writes to New Times of his rough childhood in south Phoenix, how he was molested and addicted to drugs. He says he doesn't recall the sex offense that landed him in jail; he thinks it might have been a prostitution charge. Pinal Superior Court records show he pleaded guilty in 1996 to a count of sexual abuse, charged with performing oral sex on an unwilling minor.

Karl plans to challenge the sex-offender notification and registration laws as soon as he can find a good case. The laws were passed in response to a case in which a released sex offender raped and killed a young girl. The argument for making sex offenders register is so that they can specifically be kept apart from minors.

"We have a sex offender, lives the next street over from me, and they're driving him nuts with that whole notification thing, and I have a real problem with that!" Karl says. "Megan's Law came about because little Megan was raped and murdered by a sex offender who was just released from prison. Everybody was up at arms, so they came up with Megan's Law to register sex offenders and notify the neighborhoods of sex offenders.

"However, how many times have you read in the newspaper about a family completely wiped out at an intersection by a guy who just got out of prison for DUI? How many times you read in the newspaper about a little old lady that was murdered in a burglary attempt by someone who just got out of prison for burglary? How come it's not the Little Old Lady Law? How come it's not the DUI Family Law? How come it's not the Felon Registration Law? It's Megan's Law. That's bullcrap. The Constitution very clearly states that no law, statute or ordinance shall be enacted that does not affect all persons equally. Megan's Law affects sex offenders only. Therefore it is unconstitutional."

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.