It's been reported that as a result of the Penn State child abuse scandal, more people are coming forward to report that they've been molested. Now we have a sign that it may be influencing how companies deal with reporting possible sex crimes involving children. Recently it was discovered that a man who works in casting on Hollywood films, including many requiring young actors, is a registered sex offender. Rather than quietly letting him go, executives quickly went to authorities and made the incident public, even though there are no reports of children being harmed.
The L.A. Times reports that over the last decade, Jason James has worked his way up in the movie buisiness, and has cast actors in everything from independent films to huge blockbusters. Many of these films employed child actors, including Super 8, Bad News Bears, School of Rock, Cheaper By The Dozen 2, and the upcoming film The Three Stooges. The casting directors who oversaw his work said he was professional, and there haven't been any complaints from actors, but this week producer/director J.J. Abrams was tipped off about James' past. His real name Jason James Murphy, and he was convicted of kidnapping and molesting an 8-year-old boy in 1996.
It seems no one who worked with Murphy knew him as anything other than Jason James, so he was never connected to the well-publicized case. Recently Abrams' manager David Lonner learned about Murphy's real identity and told his client. Abrams informed executives at Paramount Pictures, the studio behind Super 8, this week and they notified authorities. Yesterday police started investigating Murphy's compliance with state registration requirements for sex offenders.
When Murphy was 19, he was arraigned on charges that he molested an 8-year-old Seattle boy he met when he was a camp counselor. While out on bail, he kidnapped the boy from his elementary school, disguised himself as a woman, and flew with the boy to New York. He was apprehended when a clerk at the hotel they were staying in saw Murphy's picture on America's Most Wanted. He served five years in prison and when he moved to California in 2005 he registered as a sex offender, submitting his name and a photo. Offenders are required to inform authorities of name changes, but he never told police he'd shortened his name to Jason James. The law also prohibits sex offenders whose victims were under 16 from "working directly and in an unaccompanied setting with minor children on more than an incidental and occasional basis or have supervision or disciplinary power over minor children."
Casting directors who worked with Murphy say he was never alone with the children he cast, but Paramount has still promised to perform background checks on anyone who works with child actors in the future. Abrams said:
"It's shocking and it's devastating, not just as a filmmaker but as a father and someone who is entrusted to make sure that everyone I work with, especially children, are safe. To think that someone like this was among us is unthinkable."
It's unclear how Abrams' manager found out about Murphy's past or how long people in Hollywood were aware of his past, but the studios definitely want it to be known that they acted quickly. One would hope that the motivation to stop sex offenders who break the law is to help children. However, even if people are only going to the authorities because they don't want to wind up like Penn State officials, it doesn't really matter as long as they're taking child abuse more seriously.