Randy Robertson wants to open a doughnut shop. He can’t get a job, and he sees the business as a chance to provide for himself, his wife and their daughter, who turns 3 in August.
He also said he understands why he can’t interact with customers, why he must wear an ankle monitor for the rest of his life and why many would be repulsed by him.
Robertson, 52, was convicted of taking indecent liberties with a minor after molesting a 14-year-old boy in 2010. He was also convicted of the same crime in Wake County in 1980.
At J’s Delicious Daylight Donuts, Robertson plans to keep the books and make doughnuts before store hours. He vows not to interact with customers. The store is slated to open Tuesday, and it has been scrutinized by town and county officials since an anonymous tip about Robertson’s past and his plans surfaced late last week.
Robertson and his wife, Stacey, whom he married in 2011, say they have invested $200,000 to start the business. The money, he said, was a combination of personal savings and loans from friends and family.
“I want to provide for my family. I’ve got to do something,” Robertson said.
The Robertsons’ plans are legal. The town has determined it won’t – and probably can’t – block the store’s opening. Wake County Assistant District Attorney Melanie Shekita, who handled the 2010 case, opposes the store. But she said her office does not have a legal basis for an injunction to prevent the business from opening.
“I think it shocks the conscience that Daylight Donuts would allow him to open such a thing and put ‘family-friendly’ on it,” Shekita said. “The victim and the family know, and they’re beside themselves.”
Shekita said an eatery that didn’t specialize in implicitly child-attracting sweets would have been a better choice. She also said Robertson knows that if he violates probation, it will be dealt with swiftly.
In 2010, Robertson was caught on a security camera at Garner United Methodist Church tickling a 14-year-old boy and touching him inappropriately. His church, St. Andrews United Methodist, was visiting on a joint event. Robertson took a plea deal and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, along with therapy and five years of probation ending in December 2015.
Robertson’s probation bars him from socializing or communicating with anyone younger than 16 unless accompanied by a responsible adult aware of his past abuses. His business can’t hire a minor. And he can’t leave Wake County without permission.
The Robertsons said they chose to a open a doughnut shop largely because Robertson developed a passion for baking while taking culinary classes while teaching at Wake Technical Community College from 2001 to 2008 and because there weren’t similar shops in the area.
“He can’t find a job. How can you expect to live if he can’t get hired by anybody?” Stacey Robertson said.
A choice, not a mistake
Robertson acknowledged his urges and said he takes responsibility and has remorse for his crime.
“It was a terrible choice. It wasn’t a mistake; it was a choice,” Robertson said. “I did what I did because I wanted to do it.”
Since he can never contact the victim, he said his only hope of some form of restitution is paying it forward, sometimes by trying to keep others in his group sessions honest.
“It’s by modeling the correct behavior, helping other people through their work, calling their hand when they’ve got this distorted thinking,” Robertson said. “They’ll tell their story, ‘well you know it was just an accident,’ and I’ll say, ‘that’s (bull).’ ”
He said his therapy consisted of a number of factors: overcoming denial, accepting responsibility, finding the root causes in his background, dealing with anger, having a relapse-prevention plan and learning empathy and the damage he has caused without it.
“Had I had the empathy, I wouldn’t have committed the offense,” Robertson said.
Dealing with sex offenders
UNC-Charlotte psychology professor Richard McAnulty has specialized in studying sexual misconduct and offenses for more than 20 years, including research and work as a clinical psychologist. He understands anxiety over sex offenders, but said public “lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key” sentiments don’t accurately address the reality of the problem.
“We know that treatment does make a difference; it does lower relapse rates and recidivism,” McAnulty said. “There is a small percentage of sexual offenders, perhaps 10 percent, who are predatory and a high risk of re-offending.”
Emphasis today is on treatment and management, he said, rather than “cure.” Research also shows, McAnulty said, that public sex offender registries are ineffective at deterring recidivism, with some unintended negative consequences. A survey of studies supports his claim.
Positive social relationships, such as a successful marriage, and large gaps between offenses lower the likelihood of relapse. McAnulty called Robertson’s acceptance of responsibility another positive sign.
Robertson maintains that the two crimes 30 years apart are his only criminal acts. He also said that he didn’t deal with his urges for decades in large part because he hadn’t been arrested.
Phillip Anthony, an attorney who lives a few houses down from the Robertsons and attends St. Andrews, said he feels for the widely shunned Robertson. As a father, he understands the fear. But he wants to see Robertson get a chance to succeed, though he has doubts about his chances of overcoming the stigma. He warned Robertson that some will “do everything they can to tear him down.”
“He’s trying his best to turn his life around. I don’t know if he’s going to be able to do it because the odds are stacked against him,” Anthony said.
Monitoring the situation
Garner police Chief Brandon Zuidema spoke to Robertson after learning about the situation June 20. Zuidema did not express major concern for public risk in the shop’s operation as long as Robertson does not violate his probation.
“We’ll be monitoring that situation,” Zuidema said. “We’ll be making sure he obeys his probation, and also making sure his rights as a prospective business owner are protected as well.”
Garner Councilman Gra Singleton said he understood Robertson’s tough spot and his legal right to run a business. He also expressed concern about the choice of business and said people would come to their own conclusions.
“Some people won’t go because of (Robertson),” Singleton said. “That’s their choice.”