Columbia PoliSci Prof Charged with Incest

Columbia political science professor David Epstein has been charged with a 3-year incestuous relationship with his adult daughter.

Via the the Columbia SpectatorProfessor David Epstein charged with incest with his daughter:

Political science professor David Epstein, 46, was charged Thursday with having a sexual relationship with his daughter, 24.

Wow.

According to the New York Daily News, Epstein faces up to four years in prison is convicted.  And, not to mention, his career is now over, one would think.  Indeed, his lawyer may be trying the following, but one suspects that the tense should be changed to past (from the Spectator article):

“David is a respected member of the Columbia University and national academic communities, and we think he deserves privacy and respect while the investigators are investigating. We are asking people to remember that these allegations are nothing more than allegations,” he said.

While I believe in innocent until proven guilty and agree that people ought not be tried in the media, this strikes as the sort of situation where it is hard to get it wrong.  We shall see, no doubt, but of the things that police might make up/be mistaken about, this doesn’t strike me as a likely one.  In regards to the legal issues, Slate has the following:  The law on “consensual” incest (reports state that the relationship was a 3-year, consensual one).

The Daily News piece also notes:

Epstein, who specializes in American politics and voting rights, has taught at Harvard and Stanford and often is quoted by news organizations. He also has blogged on The Huffington Post.

His name is familiar, although none of his work comes to mind.

And to make matters even more complicated for Columbia’s political science department, Epstein is married to the department’s Chair.

And pity poor Professor David Esptein, a law professor at Richmond University.

Of course, many have already seen this as an opportunity to attack Epstein’s politics or the Ivy League, or the academy in general.  However, unless Democrats come to his defense or if Columbia let’s him keep his job, or if academics come out of the woodwork to defend him, this all hits me as cheap shots (not on Epstein, but on those affiliated with him).

Look, I don’t mind if one wants to engage in some schadenfreude at Epstein’s expense–he has made fun of Sarah Palin quitting her governorship, so fair game making fun of him for getting arrested.  However, the crimes alleged against him have nothing to do with the Huffington Post, his partisan preferences, his career of choice, or where he teaches.  I think that trying to make it such is unfair.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Education, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Alex Knapp says:

    Are Heinlein jokes okay?

  2. TG Chicago says:

    “While I believe in innocent until proven guilty and agree that people ought not be tried in the media, this strikes as the sort of situation where it is hard to get it wrong. We shall see, no doubt, but of the things that police might make up/be mistaken about, this doesn’t strike me as a likely one.”

    Why is that? I mean, I’m not saying he’s innocent, but I see no particular reason to rush to judgment.

  3. PD Shaw says:

    TG: It’s hard to imagine a charge for this type of crime being brought without it being reported by the daughter (or reported by the mother and confirmed by the daughter). You can spin a number of scenarios where the daughter would be lying, but none of them are going to reflect well on the professor and aren’t terribly realistic.

  4. Tipper says:

    However, the crimes alleged against him have nothing to do with the Huffington Post, his partisan preferences, his career of choice, or where he teaches. I think that trying to make it such is unfair.

    Uh, no duh. Funny, I never see these voices of reason and calm lectures of the left’s dishonest knee jerk broad brush guilt by association fests. Spare me.

  5. Alex Knapp says:

    Funny, I never see these voices of reason and calm lectures of the left’s dishonest knee jerk broad brush guilt by association fests. Spare me.

    The irony, it burns!

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  7. Has the adult daughter also been charged?

  8. John Burgess says:

    Stormy: Apparently, the child is seen as the victim in adult incest cases. While I can imagine a predatory child, it usually works out that the parent is the one at the top end of the power equation.

  9. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    If sodomy is OK then why is incest any business of the government? Gays can marry with zero expectation of off spring so why is this an issue?

  10. Eric Florack says:

    John… that may well be true,and yet a quick check of the post text reveals the phrase “adult daughter”. The only way I can see the daughter being held a victim, is if she is considered incompetent in some way…

  11. Idiot says:

    If it makes you like him like any more, he doesn’t like Sarah Palin either.

  12. John Burgess says:

    @Eric: The argument (not that I buy it completely) is that a child, even as an adult, is in the less powerful position vis a vis a parent. Given the various jokes about Jewish and Irish mothers guilt-tripping their sons, I suspect there is great deal of truth to the notion that fathers can exert extra-ordinary powers over their daughters. At least some fathers and some daughters.

  13. Tano says:

    “Gays can marry with zero expectation of off spring so why is this an issue?”

    Maybe because there is a non-zero expectation of offspring – y’know we have a male and a female here, and…have you heard the story of the birds and the bees Zel?

    Incest has either been frowned upon, or made outright illegal in every human society I have ever heard of, precisely because of the dangers of inbreeding.

  14. Eric Florack says:

    @ TAno…. in the age of birth control, and abortion on demand? I wionder a little. I mean, absent that you might have actually had a point. With it, I’m unconvinced.

    And @John; Yes, so I gather, but would that not require a case by case accounting? Speaking purely about the law an ignoring any discussion of morality, the blanket prohibition seems a questionable law.

    Then again, this seems a case to draw once again the discussion of law versus morality… (is the law always moral, etc)

  15. mpw280 says:

    Comment deleted for abuse of posting policy

  16. ponce says:

    “Incest has either been frowned upon, or made outright illegal in every human society I have ever heard of, precisely because of the dangers of inbreeding.”

    I thought the Egyptians frequently married their siblings.

  17. John Burgess says:

    @Eric: I think it’s more an assumption rather than an out-and-out prohibition. Courts seems to favor women in incest cases, even when it involves siblings. At least that’s my recall from the few cases I’ve come across. It’s not actually my field of interest, after all…

  18. PD Shaw says:

    Daughters do get convicted with their fathers, there was a recent story involving a child born in such a relationship mentioned in one of the recent stories on this issue and I think the . . . er . . . parents both got probation.

    I think it’s going to depend on how the crime is reported. If the daughter comes forward as the victim and is upset and confused and seeking protection, she’s not going to get charged I imagine. Prostitution charges aren’t always even-handed either.

    Also, the issue is “knowing consent,” which is generally not presumed in relationships of trust, authority or supervision. The parent is master of the child for 18 years and the child no doubt still retains emotional and financial dependence from that relationship.

  19. Tano says:

    “…. in the age of birth control, and abortion on demand? ”

    The “Age” you refer to is only several decades old, relative to millions of years of human evolution. The incest taboo is so deep it is manifest as an “ick factor” long before the mind begins to debate the issue. We have been selected to shun incest – which is not to say that every last individual would be incapable of it, obviously.

  20. Don L says:

    How soon before this (like every other evil our culture has diablically elevated to the status of goodness and personal choice) becomes the norm to be then found in the many twists and turns in the emanations from penumbras by the almighty and wise Supreme Court?

    As the God man said, we are either with Him or against him. Look around you; It looks like America – not just this man – has clearly chosen the wrong path.

  21. An Interested Party says:

    “…like every other evil our culture has diablically elevated to the status of goodness and personal choice…”

    Oh, do tell…

  22. Eric Florack says:

    @John; Oh, I know… and understand my comments are of a casual nature. It just appears to me that this kind of law can be defeated in so many levels.

    And, @Tano: If I’m you, I’m not discounting Don’s underlying point. To steal a phrase, what once were vices now are habits.

  23. Justin Bowen says:

    Oh please. We all know Democrats and liberals and academics and the HuffPo are all in favor of the gay agenda – which we all know leads to incest, beastiality, and pedophila.

  24. An Interested Party says:

    “…the gay agenda – which we all know leads to incest, beastiality, and pedophila.”

    Not sure if that is a parody or not…but it is certainly a viewpoint held by many, including more than a few people around here…who knew that incest, bestiality, and pedophilia where all such tremendous problems in Western Europe and states like Massachusetts and California…oh wait, they’re not…silly scared homophobes and their ridiculous fears…it’s people like that who give conservatives such a bad reputation…

  25. sam says:

    Y’all might want to head over to volokh.com for an extended discussion of the legal issues.

  26. Justin Bowen says:

    Just to make this exceedingly clear, my comment was a parody. I don’t actually believe what I said (and even if it was true, I wouldn’t actually care whether people wanted to engage in incest or beastiality).

  27. John425 says:

    So we do see that “civil rights” are limited in scope. If consanguinuity is illegal, then why are we giving gays a special pass?