TALLAHASSEE — He was 19 and she was 14 when they first had sex. The teenage lovers now have been married for nearly 10 years, but as a result of that youthful indiscretion Virgil Frank McCranie is listed as a sex offender on a state Web site.
That’s because he was an adult and she was still a minor. She reported the crime only after finding out he was having relations with another — adult — woman.
McCranie, 34, told Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet, sitting Thursday as the Florida Board of Executive Clemency, that being on the sex offender list has caused him to lose at least 17 jobs in the last several years and that his four children, ages 7 to 14, have shared his stigma.
McCranie, who now has a retail sales job in Panama City Beach, asked for a pardon to lift the cloud over his life caused what’s known as a “Romeo and Juliet” case.
His name, picture, address, a map showing where he lives, a description of his vehicle and tag number and other information are posted on the state’s sex offender Web site for all to see.
“I just want a chance to just be a regular person again,” McCranie said. “I’m not a monster. I don’t belong on this list.”
Crist delayed a decision, saying he wanted more time to think about it and study the facts.
“It’s a difficult case,” Crist said. “I’ll make my ruling based on what I believe to be true.”
To get a pardon, an applicant must receive approval from the governor and at least two of the three Cabinet members: Attorney General Bill McCollum, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson.
The couple met through their parents, who were friends, when growing up in Jacksonville. McCranie’s wife, Misty, now 28, said she became angry and jealous when he developed a relationship with another woman. She told her father she’d had sex with McCranie and they went to the police.
“I wish I could take it back,” she said in an interview. “Once we got back together I realized how detrimental it was to him.”
The couple have two children together and McCranie has custody of two others he had with the other woman.
McCranie said he’s never been accused of any other crime and has worked in a series of stores where he frequently has contact with families and children without incident. He said, though, he has been repeatedly fired after some customers and other employees have found him on the sex offender Web site and complained to his bosses.
Originally charged with rape, McCranie pleaded no contest to lewd and lascivious behavior with a child as part of a plea deal.
He was placed on probation and the judge withheld adjudication. McCranie said he later violated probation “for monetary reasons” and wound up serving about a month in jail.
“My prison’s out here on this Web site,” McCranie said after the meeting. “Yeah, I’ve done about 14-15 years of hard time, believe me. I’d been better off in prison, probably.”