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Trip with me now, dear reader, into the darkest recesses of the humanmind, where today we will learn what happens when investigative journalism collides with the status quo

Last month’s column I wrote on Melissa “Missy� Roper, Atascadero State Hospital’s most visible employee, was apparently a little too revealing for some of her legions of fans. Many who took the time to write, call or e-mail expressed considerable umbrage at my impudent suggestion that a professional woman who deals daily with sex criminals should maybe think twice before allowing her nude and semi-nude photographs to be posted on a web site and in books.

Roper is unit supervisor and sits on a hospital committee determining treatment protocols and therapies for men incarcerated in the Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) program. In that role, Roper has the ability to sanction on a whim patients/inmates who look at her in a way that she determines to be “sexual.�

Duh. What’s wrong with this picture?

Speaking of pictures, Roper’s were making ever-widening rounds at ASH among staff and patients long before I got my sweaty hooks on them.

Barrie Hafler, ASH spokesperson, said Roper’s modeling and subsequent posting of Internet photos was the employee’s personal business.

John Rodriguez, deputy director of the California Department of Mental Health, didn’t respond to my phone calls, choosing the coward’s route by sending my inquiry back to Hafler. Now, that’s oversight for the new millennium.

Then Roper, contacted by this column to comment on her actions, instead insisted that her “stolen� photos be returned. She also angrily demanded the identification of the person who provided them to us.

My e-mail list lit up only minutes after the column hit the newsstands, and most were very critical … not of Roper, but of me. Many of the communications help illustrate the extremely volatile and dangerous climate that authorities at ASH not only tolerate, but also appear to condone. I’m only printing excerpts of critics’ letters; those who agree with me all said they fear for their jobs.

So, let’s pretend, eh? I’m the shrink and I’m going to psychoanalyze these letters.

A person identifying himself as AshlStan5 wonders: “Dude, what was the point of this article? Do you not have any real news in SLO? Where is the crime? Are you gonna write stuff like this about every model who also has a damn job? You really need to get a life.�

Yeah, dude. Just what I need … a life.
Nolan Pullen, whose Internet handle is Rajjin, writes: “Thanks a lot. Just what we need is another idiot championing the cause of the dirt bags housed at ASH. Your quotes from the patient ‘criminals’ don’t reference the fact that they are usually on the hustle for a new game or angle to cause headaches and problems. But hey, you got yourself a tasteless article published and can give yourself a pat on the back. Good for you.�

Nolan, tasteless articles such as mine help reveal oddball thinking such as yours.

Matt Stanton chimes in: “Congratulations, New Times. The “Meth Made Easy� article was something you were trying to pawn off as a one-time incident. This time, with “I’ve got you on my mind,� you have shown that you are determined to sink BELOW the lowest tabloids. Good job on making sure nobody mistakes your rag for having integrity. Hopefully, your sponsors and their customers will now realize they’re simply promoting smut. I’ll be sure to pick up an occasional copy, just so I can see who I don’t want to do business with.�

Thanks for reading, Matt. It’s you and others like you who make this fine newspaper the success it is.

Charles Poncelet, an ASH and California Men’s colony employee, is “dismayed when I see that a SVP has duped someone … I have worked for Melissa Roper for years and I can tell you she is intelligent, fair and structured in the work place. Her only fault is that she is very attractive and an obvious target of the sadist rapist mother%*#@#@s we work with. She is well liked by many staff and did not deserve that kind of attack, especially without a chance to defend herself. You harmed her.�

Charles makes me feel like I ripped out the centerfold before handing him his copy of Playboy.

Kayla Eddy also thinks I need something new to do. She opines: “I have to say that it is a shame that you feel that it’s okay to not only put someone’s private and personal life in public news, but make it everyone else’s business. Someone can be a professional and have a life as well. What Melissa is doing is no one’s business but hers. As long as she conducts herself with professionalism at her job, then why bother her…. Maybe you need to think before you put such invalid information to the public. Not only are you putting her life in danger by showing private information as well as a picture to the public in a newspaper those violent predators’ families can see, but you’re doing it so ignorantly. Get a life.�

Gabrela Saldana (pookipumpkin78) adds, “Your own demeanor is frightening because you are engaging in this manifestation of inappropriate sexual behavior. Are you an SVP roaming the streets of SLO and the Internet looking for a victim to prey upon? Your actions speak louder than words.�
Yep. Writing about state-sanctioned stripping supervisors makes me the perv.

Vaughn Kaser wonders about my religious side:

“The extremely beautiful young lady you so callously exploited in your article just happens to be one of the best. She is a unit supervisor at such a young age because of her skills as a professional. She deserves praise for the work she does in this difficult place ... not ‘North County Christian’-style chiding for what she does during her own free time.�

 Megan (mhforever21) charitably concludes (my personal favorite): “That has got to be the most ridiculous article I’ve ever read. Just because Melissa works at ASH doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be allowed to have a personal life outside of it. And just because Melissa is a good looking girl doesn’t give the sick ducks at ASH the right to gawk at her. The families of those patients had no right to sneak any of those photos into the facility. Melissa is very professional at work and her position and authority there prove it. Someone that would write an article defending a child molester or a rapist should be locked in a room with 10 of them and be considered fair game.�

Sure. Writing a column should be punishable by gang-rape. You sound just like the Bush Administration. I like it when these people say they aren’t really threatening me, just “speaking hypothetically.� I understand that kind of talk. That’s kind of what I do for a living.

So this isn’t a threat, either, just an observation: Over the past few weeks I have developed an acute interest in the inner workings of ASH. I wonder about a lot of things that are going on over there. I wonder what kind of additionally twisted people these devoted ASH folks are going to be sending back out on the streets—our streets.

So I now will look at ASH from the top down, with all the patience, perseverance and insight that only an old, bored government reporter with too much time on his hands can muster. I hope I have enough years left to do what is apparently needed—hypothetically speaking, of course.

Daniel Blackburn can be reached at jubilance or at   [email protected].

Readers Poll

How do you feel about the availability of mental health services in SLO County? 

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