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SnakebyteXX
08-16-2005, 06:08 AM
Falls City couple says it's love; state says it's rape

By COLLEEN KENNEY / Lincoln Journal Star

FALLS CITY He notices the bulge in her belly. They're sitting side by side on the couch in his bedroom, watching TV on a late February afternoon. You're getting kind of big there, aren't you? No, she says, I'm not. Photo gallery
Peggy Koso, right, places her hand on the pregnant belly of ner new daughter-in-law, Crystal Koso, 14, as she attempts to feel her grandchild kick as the father of the baby, Matthew Koso, left, watches, Thursday, July 28, 2005 in the Koso's Falls City home. (Krista Niles)

Crystal Guyer has been wearing baggy shirts and her mom's jeans for weeks. But no one has noticed anything until now.

Matt Koso's bedroom is just down the stairs from the kitchen of his parents' yellow bungalow, across from the park.

There's room enough for the couch, a TV cabinet, a couple of dressers and a full-size bed.

Above the bed is a Jeff Gordon poster and a dragon poster. The rest of the wall and most of another are covered in neat rows with colorful paper love notes.

Happy 1 year and 2 months I love you. . . .

Sweetheart + Babe Boy 4-ever! . . .

I love you Matt . . .

Crystal colored them in pencil and crayon.

He puts his hand on her belly.

You're pregnant, aren't you?

No.

OK, then, I'll drive down to Sun-Mart right now and buy a pregnancy test and make you take it.

No, she says. No need for a test.

She thinks she got pregnant a few days before her 14th birthday.

He's 22.

She kisses his forehead.

I don't want to lose you.



Five months later, police take Matt Koso to the Richardson County Jail.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning says at a press conference at the Capitol in Lincoln that he's charged Matt with first-degree sexual assault, which carries a penalty of up to 50 years in prison.

"I'm not going to stand by while a grown man has a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old."

The attorney general says his office learned about the relationship from "citizens in Falls City who were shocked by it."

He says he's confident of a conviction.

In Nebraska, anyone older than 19 can't have sex with anyone younger than 16. And no one younger than 16 can marry.

Bruning says it doesn't matter that they got married in Kansas, where a 12-year-old can marry with a parent's permission.

Or that the girl's mother gave her permission.

Or that the girl says it's love, not rape.

Says the attorney general: "She'll be married to a guy who is in prison."



If you get pregnant, her mom told her, you're kicked out.

If you get her pregnant, his folks told him, you're kicked out.

Even though she says she didn't want to, Crystal's mom, Cecilia Guyer, signs a protection order September 2004 that says Matt can't talk to Crystal.

Later, she has it dropped.

Matt's parents were worried, too.

His mom would go down to the basement when they were hanging out to make sure they weren't fooling around. She'd say she was checking on laundry or looking for something.



For weeks, Matt and Crystal keep their secret.

Abortion is out of the question. So is adoption. They're going to marry someday anyway, so why give up the baby?

Or each other.

May comes. Crystal and her mom go shopping at Yesterday's Closet, a second-hand clothing store in town. Crystal needs a dress for eighth-grade graduation.

She comes out of the changing room in a black formal with spaghetti straps and a red jacket.

She bends over to adjust a shoe and Cecilia notices pink stretch marks on the top of her daughter's breasts.

She sees the bulge in her belly.

Is there something you want to tell me?

No, Mom. Not here.



The next day, Crystal and Matt gather the parents in the living room of the yellow bungalow.

Crystal sits between her mom and Matt's mom, Peggy, on the couch. His dad, John, sits in a favorite chair.

Matt stands by the archway to the dining room, looking nervous.

We're going to have a baby.

They all remember the meeting the same way not as bad as Crystal and Matt thought it would be.

No one getting kicked out, just shocked parents saying, it's OK, we still love you. We'll help out.

They remember that the question became: What is the best thing to do now for the girl and the baby?

They all decide the couple should get married.



Matt started out as friends with Crystal's brother.

He became like family, eating dinner with them, driving them around on errands, going to Wal-Mart in St. Joseph, Mo.

And one day, two years ago, Matt looked at the girl and knew he was in love.

Looking back, she knows she'd been in love with him since seeing him one day at the swimming pool.

She was with her friends that day. But she wanted to be with him.



Learning was hard for Matt. He has attention deficit hyperactive disorder and was in special education in school.

He's good at English, spelling and grammar, though, and he can write beautiful poetry. Especially to her.

. . . I miss you like a moonless night . . .

He can put together words and anything else. He's good with his hands.

But he didn't fit in with kids his own age, so he hung out with kids a few years younger, like Crystal's brother.

Unlike Matt, she's a good student. In eighth grade, she was doing college-level math.

Matt calls her Einstein.

She's not good at poetry. Hates English. Her love letters are pretty basic. Like those colored notes.



They like to sit in front of the PlayStation in his bedroom usually it's him playing and her watching or doing homework.

Crystal's mom likes Matt loves him. Knows he has a heart of gold.

Cecilia has severe diabetes, takes five shots a day. She lives on Social Security.

She'll never forget the day an ex-boyfriend came over to her house and smashed the right side of her head with a 2-by-4.

Matt was there. He was so mad that Crystal and her siblings had to see what happened.

They had to hold him back.

He wanted to take Cecilia to the hospital, but she wouldn't go.

She knows Matt would die for her daughter.



In the photo, taken May 3, the white-haired judge looks uncomfortable.

Maybe he wasn't. Maybe that's just his look. There's no smile under his mustache as he stands next to Crystal, who holds flowers and stands next to Matt.

She wears a red Husker sweatshirt. The boy wears a black polo shirt. Both wear jeans.

Matt's parents and Crystal's mom were there that day in the Brown County Courthouse in Kansas.

The day before, the judge had been really stern. Why should we do something for you in Kansas that they won't let you do in Nebraska?

He told them to go back to Nebraska and talk to a lawyer, make sure everyone knew what their rights were. And the consequences.

They did. Falls City lawyer Bill Yoesel told them that a 14-year-old getting married could raise red flags, maybe even criminal charges.

This surprised them.

He explained the Nebraska law on statutory rape but said he doubted anything would happen. The county attorney probably had better things to do.

Especially since they were getting married.

And the next day, when Crystal gets out of school at 3:20, they return to Kansas.

The judge gives them a lecture. You've got a long road ahead of you, he says. It won't be easy.

Then he marries them, wishes them luck and asks them to send photos of the baby.



Matt and Crystal are in their bedroom. They're on the couch watching TV a show on the Discovery Channel about the Titanic.

John Koso calls down the stairs.

John repairs tires at Harmon's OK Tire. He's worked there the past 20 years. He keeps tire pressure gauges strapped on his belt. And a pager he's also a volunteer EMT.

He was the first to see the police truck parked out front.

The police are here, he tells Matt.

Peggy Koso looks out the front window and her stomach starts to hurt.

She's a homemaker now, but used to be a family support worker for the Department of Social Services, helping mothers be good mothers.

Matt comes up without shoes.

She tells him to go back, put them on.

She remembers seeing Matt walk out, talk to the police, fall to his knees on the sidewalk, like he's collapsed.

Crystal comes up from the basement. She starts crying, too.

That night, Matt sleeps in a third-floor cell in the Richardson County Jail. He remembers the dream that woke him.

Maybe it's years later. He gets out of prison and goes home to the yellow bungalow. He opens the door and there's no one waiting for him. No parents. No wife. No baby.

Alone, Crystal doesn't sleep.



Bill Yoesel is in the living room.

The cell phone in the front pocket of his Western-style shirt hasn't stopped all day n ABC, MSNBC, newspapers from Nebraska and Kansas.

The evening news from Omaha is on. They show a photo of Matt and Crystal, her face blurred out.

This is "The Big Story," according to the words on the bottom of the TV screen.

Then Peggy's face fills the screen. She cringes at the way she looks.

John's arms are crossed over his chest. He's a quiet man, the kind who keeps everything inside.

But yesterday, Peggy says, as they watched the attorney general talk about Matt on TV, he cried.

The Omaha TV people were here a few hours ago. Now it's a newspaper reporter. How on earth did this happen? How did everyone find them here in Falls City?

Even Dr. Phil's people, who say he wouldn't lecture the kids about the past, just help them with a life plan, a strategy for working this mess out and staying married, being good parents.

"I really admire Dr. Phil," Peggy says. "He tells it like it is. Doesn't sugarcoat it. He's brutal. But maybe he can help.

"I think he'd probably tell Crystal the same thing the judge did you guys have got a long road ahead of you, a lot of obstacles. But if you love each other and if you take time to communicate, you can make it."

That's probably the only show they'll go on, Peggy says, because it's like getting free advice.

She laughs.

And a trip to Hollywood.

She's likes the media attention. Maybe it will help people understand that they're just ordinary people dealing the best they can with a big problem.

John speaks up. "Problem is," he says, "no way the attorney general will back down now. Not with all the media coverage."

Matt doesn't like the idea of going on TV. Too stressful, he says.

Matt works in shipping and receiving at a manufacturing plant on the south edge of town. He moves boxes, mainly, and makes $9 an hour. He gets benefits and loves the job.

"I'm just a laborer."

He wouldn't want to be the attorney general. Especially not in this situation.

If he were, he might have done the same thing Jon Bruning did. But then, maybe he'd come for coffee and get to know the people and see that this is a loving home with loving parents.

That he's no pedophile.

"I know what I did was wrong. But I could have run. But I wanted to take care of her and the baby."

The cell phone rings again. The lawyer talks for a while, then hands it to Peggy.

"It's Dr. Phil's people again."



A doctor's check-up is coming, Peggy reminds Crystal on Thursday.

The girl makes a face.

"Oh, those stirrups. He's going to put me in those stirrups again."

She sits on the couch in the living room, wrapped up in Matt. She just woke from a nap in the basement bedroom where it's cool.

She is blond and 5-foot-5. Before getting pregnant, she weighed 120 pounds. She's gained 50.

Peggy tried to get her to rub cocoa butter on her belly, but she didn't and now has lots of pink stretch marks.

The baby has dropped.

They want a boy. Dalton Bryce.

Sumara Ann if it's a girl.

They've prepared a nursery off the living room. There's a bassinet covered in white eyelet material, a changing table with baby powder and baby blankets and a Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed doll.

A Winnie-the-Pooh T-shirt covers her belly.

Peggy Koso has crocheted several blankets for the baby, including a white one Matt asked her to make. He wants to bring the baby home from the hospital in a white blanket.

It's weird, Crystal says, people in the Sun Mart are congratulating her now. People she doesn't even know.

Seems everyone's heard about the pregnancy and the marriage.

Her friends are offering to baby-sit.

"I tell them you can, but you'll have to fight through me and my mom and my mother-in-law first."

School starts Aug. 18. The baby is due Aug. 28.

She's not so afraid of giving birth, as long as they numb her. She just hopes her water doesn't break while she's in school.

She's not even afraid of Dr. Phil.

She laughs.

"I'll just nod my head and agree with everything he says, then go back to doing the same old thing I was doing."

She's only afraid of one thing now, really.

Matt going to prison.

"I don't like what that one guy, that attorney general, said, that I'll be married to a guy in prison.

"The more he says this, the more stress it puts on me and the more that stress just makes it harder on me to be getting through this pregnancy."

It's time for supper. Peggy and Matt and Crystal decide to eat at Mutt and Jeff's, an old drive-in on the north edge of town.

Before leaving, Matt checks the mail. He shows a bright pink envelope to his mom.

There's no name on the return address, just a round face drawn in pen and the words: Smile, God loves you.

Peggy reads it first.

Ask God to forgive you. Ask the state to forgive you. I'm not sure what is right for now as you are married and expecting your 1st born. ...

Her eyes get wet.

She hands it back to Matt.

Congradulations on your marriage & wish & pray for the best Life & Healthy baby n Be Happy & Be Good to each other.

His eyes get wet, too. He sits down.

Must be from someone from Falls City, they think. Probably someone who knows them. They rattle off names.

Then Crystal reads it.

She notices that whoever sent it didn't know the street address. That probably means it came from someone from another town, she says. Someone who doesn't even know them.

She smiles as she looks at the front of the envelope.

Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Koso, Falls City, Ne.

Reach Colleen Kenney at 473-2655 or ckenney@journalstar.com.

How we reported this

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning announced at a press conference Tuesday that his office had charged 22-year-old Matthew Koso of Falls City with first-degree sexual assault for impregnating his underage girlfriend, who is now 14 and his wife.

The Journal Star spent hours Wednesday and Thursday interviewing Koso, his parents and his lawyer and the girl and her mother.

Many of the details and dialogue in this story were reconstructed from their memories. Only dialogue the reporter heard are between quotation marks.

Judge James Patton, who married the couple May 3 in Brown County, Kan., was on a bike ride across Iowa and could not be reached for comment. The Journal Star left messages with Bruning requesting an interview and was told he was unavailable because he was on vacation.

It's the law

Statutory rape involves someone younger than 16 having consensual sex with someone 19 or older, which is illegal under Nebraska law. Forcible rape involves one person having sex with another person against his or her will. Both are charged under the same state statute and both carry a penalty of up to 50 years in prison. The following are the number of forcible and statutory rape reports made to the Lincoln Police Department in the past seven years:

1998: Statutory: 15; forcible: 103

1999: Statutory: 25; forcible: 80

2000: Statutory: 26; forcible: 100

2001: Statutory: 22; forcible 86

2002: Statutory: 7; forcible: 97

2003: Statutory: 24; forcible: 96

2004: Statutory: 13; forcible: 126

Nebraska law leaves little room for loopholes

Sometimes, they're runaways who have sex with the men who give them a place to stay.

Or girls who meet men on the Internet. Or even teachers who have sex with their students.

They are all cases of statutory rape someone younger than 16 years of age who has consenual sex with someone 19 or older. A crime, under Nebraska law.

Last year those cases made up about 10 percent of the rape cases investigated by police, according to Lincoln Police Department statistics.

And often, those cases are easier to investigate than forcible rapes because they are relatively straightforward, said Lincoln Police Chief Tom Casady.

Police cleared more than half of the 13 statutory rape cases investigated last year, compared to about 25 percent of the 126 forcible rape cases.

Nine of the statuory rape reports resulted in arrests. One involved a 16-year-old girl and therefore wasn't a crime and in three cases there wasn't enough evidence to make an arrest, Casady said.

Of those nine cases, seven resulted in convictions. The sentences varied from probation to a 20- to 30-year prison sentence. Two cases still are pending.

Often, statutory rape cases are reported when something happens. A 13-year-old girl gets pregnant, for instance, Casady said. And police know the identity of the perpetrator.

In traditional rape cases, police and prosecutors must prove the victim wasn't a willing participant.

Not so when the victim is younger than 16 and the perpetrator older than 19. It's simply against the law.

In some states, making an honest mistake about the victim's age can be used as a defense.

Not in Nebraska, said Lancaster County Attorney Gary Lacey.

"Even if she says she's older than she is and he relies on that, it's still not a defense,'' Lacey said.

But deciding whether to prosecute is not always black and white, he said. The law is designed to protect children, Lacey said.

"The complicating factor in some cases is that when they're close in age, they are in love and want to be together,'' he said.

Take the case of a 15-year-old girl and her 19-year-old boyfriend. Maybe both families approve. Prosecutors must decide whether the purpose of the statute is really being served, he said.

"When there's an element there that negates the need to have that protection I think you can exercise some discretion without running afoul of the legislative intent,'' Lacey said.

When a man in his 20s is going out with someone 14 or 15 years old, Lacey said, that's different.

"I don't have much sympathy,'' he said.

Or when a man lures young women on the Internet, or pedophiles take advantage of young girls, there's no question, he said.

--Margaret Reist

web page (http://www.journalstar.com/articles/2005/07/30/top_story/extras/doc42eac6b12dcf7410015676.txt)

Cueless Joey
08-16-2005, 07:51 AM
OK, he's 22 and she's 13.
Hmmm.

theinel
08-17-2005, 01:10 AM
Hey SnakebyteXX, have you ever done any wine tasting around Sonoma?

SnakebyteXX
08-17-2005, 12:19 PM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote theinel:</font><hr> Hey SnakebyteXX, have you ever done any wine tasting around Sonoma? <hr /></blockquote>

Theinel, the short answer is yes. Sonoma is about forty miles from here. My ranch is situated between the Alexander Valley and the Dry Creek Valley near the town of Healdsburg. We are officially in the Dry Creek Appelation.

I grew up here. We are surrounded by vineyards and wineries. Locally our area is known for its fine reds (Cabernets, Pinot Noirs and Zinfandels among others) and excellant whites of course. There are more than thirty world class wineries within a 20 minute drive from my home.

Oddly enough, most of us locals don't spend a lot of time wine tasting the way the tourists do. I know way too many vintners, vineyard owners and vineyard managers (grew up with many of them) not to have plenty of sample bottles sent my way on a regular basis.

As a matter of fact - it's harvest time here right now and the roads are becoming crowded with gondolas filled with ripe grapes on their way to being crushed.

More good wine to come? You bet.

Snake