Ken Heller & Duke Lacrosse Players
Dr. Michael L. Ford
13 April 2007
The exoneration of Duke Lacrosse team members charged with sexual crime was the long awaited announcement of fact most people had been aware of virtually from the beginning of the whole sorry episode. When one of the young accused, Reade Seligmann, said it exposed him to "a tragic world of injustice I never knew existed" my ears picked up and a connections was made between this sorry episode and the years of mistreatment my friend Ken Heller received from the justice system in Florida.
Ken had been charged with molesting a child in Fort Myers, Florida. As soon as I got the news I knew it was untrue. Ken had been my corpsman in the military for a time. Not only that he had been a member of a church I was pastor of in Germany as well as a member of the Christian Military Fellowship when I was Area Coordinator for NordDeutschland (Northern Germany). As part of the single serviceman’s group he had been in and out of my house on a regular basis. He had even “babysat” my preteen children on several occasions so my wife and I could have some time out with each other. He was a beloved big brother figure to many children among church families. In all the time I knew him there was never a hint of misconduct on his part even though he had plenty of opportunities.
The guy liked women and managed to have as many dates among both female service members and German girls as anyone. He did get his heart broke by one young woman named Mary. He had talked with me about asking her to marry him, but we learned she had a husband in the United States and had been leading him and several other fellows along. After that, most of the women he had close ties with were older than he was. In other words, he was not sexually attracted to children. Besides that, anytime he ever did anything in less than a Christian manner he really took it to heart. I doubt that he could have emotionally survived doing anything unseemly to a child.
The parallel between what happened to the Duke Lacrosse players did not end with Mr. Seligmann’s remark. Ken was also the victim of a rogue prosecutor, only the one who harassed him happened to be female. When the allegation of pedophilia was made against Ken he was denied every basic right afforded a citizen under the Constitution. Initially, they locked him up and kept him locked up for about a year without due process of law, trying to force a confession out of him. The prosecutor kept telling him that if he would plead no contest she would let him out with five years probation and that would be the end of the matter. If he did not enter a plea like she wanted the threat was made she would have him locked up for thirty years. Keep a man incarcerated like that for a year and you can pretty well convince him they can get away with it, especially when pedophilia is one of those crimes where the State does not have to prove guilt, the accused has to prove his innocence. One night Ken called me and told me that he had learned this prosecutor had accused people of sexual harassment against her in the past. At that time I was reminded of the woman who had made allegations against Clarence Thomas when he was waiting confirmation for a seat on the Supreme Court.
One of the Duke accused, David Evans' outraged mother, had warned: "Mr. Nifong, you've picked on the wrong families ... and you will pay every day for the rest of your life" in the Duke case. The people in Fort Myers probably had no fear of Ken Heller. He was a man struggling to make it in life, whose closest friend appeared to be a dog he had rescued while living in Georgia. He had no money for lawyers and detectives like the Duke Lacrosse players. So they would send him a court appointed lawyer, who is buddies with the prosecutor to help set the man up. Taking advice from a court appointed lawyer is like asking the lion who wants to eat you how best to survive in Fort Myers. What they did not foresee is that Ken Heller did not take betrayal lightly and he was not the kind of guy to roll over and let them kick him. The meaner they got the harder he fought. He learned a lot about law in the years that followed. The week he introduced a motion that could result in the judge who had harassed him actually facing charges of his own, the man died. Ken thought God smote him.
Struggling just to eke out a living because the people persecuting him did everything in their power to keep him from being able to feed and clothe himself, Ken was electrocuted by power lines knocked down on a job site. Some standers by said let him burn, he is just a pedophile, deserves what he gets. Ken did burn for about thirty minutes. Ken died just before the Supreme Court issued a ruling in his favor. But some of us know the truth and believe there is a God in heaven that will dispense justice to those who treated him so badly. Justice waits for those who did evil to Kenneth Heller.
P. O. Box 752
Buchanan, Georgia 30113