The police log entry, which appeared in this newspaper in July 2005, went like this:

“Police arrested a Sanford man and woman on sex violations charges at 3:45 p.m. Stephen Bickart, 47, was charged with gross sexual assault and Tina Bickart was charged with unlawful sexual contact.”

Missed it? That’s why state Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, requests – no, make that insists – that we all know more.

“The horror part of this is having to look at this stuff,” said Diamond, author of the newly published “The Evil and the Innocent,” in an interview last week. “People have to hear some of this stuff and realize it’s more than just a blurb in the paper.”

So now, seven years later, the rest of the story:

One night in April 2005, Stephen Bickart came home from work and spent a few hours drinking and getting high on marijuana and cocaine with his wife, Tina. Eventually, Tina announced that she had a present for her husband and told him to go into their bedroom and “get ready.”

Stephen went into the bedroom and got undressed. Then, Tina came in carrying a 2-year-old girl. Both of them were naked. The child belonged to a next-door neighbor who had taken Tina up on her offer to babysit for the night.

Together, the Bickarts repeatedly raped and sodomized the little girl, fulfilling their shared fantasy of having sex with a young child.

“As these sexual assaults on the baby continued into the evening, they both took photographs with their digital camera,” writes Diamond in his book. “Thus providing pictorial memories for them and later to their despair … evidence for the police.”

Stephen, who eventually told all to police to get back at his wife when their marriage inevitably fell apart, got 6½ years in prison and a lifetime spot on Maine’s Sex Offender Registry.

Tina, who’s still serving a 15-year term in the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, will join Stephen on the registry when she gets out.

And Diamond, who will be termed out of the Legislature this year after serving four of the last eight years as Senate chairman of its Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, has seen enough cases like the Bickarts’ to make his head explode.

“Little did I know it would change my life,” he said.

Or make him an author.

The book, self-published through AuthorHouse and available at Amazon.com, is part legislative blueprint, part the darkest corners of recent Maine history and part therapy for a lawmaker who’s still haunted by the faces of young victims he’s seen too many times to ever forget.

“It happens a lot at nighttime, two or three o’clock in the morning,” Diamond said. “It’s like they’re begging you to not forget they’re there.”

He writes of James Cameron, the Maine assistant attorney general who was convicted in 2010 on 13 counts of sending, receiving and possessing child pornography over the Internet. (The conviction is under appeal.)

While Cameron was never accused of molesting a child, notes Diamond, he supported an underground, online industry that each day subjects countless children around the world to rape, torture and occasionally even death.

Diamond writes that Cameron, clean-cut and professional, also “illustrates the fact that sex offenders are often not the creepy looking guy everyone imagines wearing a trench coat peering at little children from behind a tree, but more likely someone who has the trust of family, friends and co-workers, which is, of course, the best disguise of all.”

The book also tracks the often zigzagging timeline of Maine’s Sex Offender Registry, which as of Tuesday contained 2,935 names.

Created 20 years ago, the registry too often has been what Diamond calls an exercise in unintended consequences – most notably through its failure to distinguish between low-level offenders (the 19-year-old boy who had sex with his 15 year-old girlfriend) and the true menaces to society (like the late Joseph Tellier, who in 1989 kidnapped 10-year-old Michelle Tardiff in Saco and left her for dead off a camp road in Limerick).

Hence the tragedy of Easter Sunday in 2006, when an armed Stephen Marshall set out from Houlton in the dead of night in his father’s stolen pickup truck after poring over 34 names in the registry.

By 8 a.m., two of those offenders – Joseph Gray of Milo and William Elliott of Corinth – had been shot dead by Marshall, who killed himself when confronted by police on a bus in Boston.

Elliott’s registry-worthy crime: In 2002, when he was 21, he had what he claimed was consensual sex with a girlfriend who was two weeks shy of her 16th birthday.

“We dragged people out of their private lives that we had no business doing that to,” Diamond now concedes, recalling the zeal with which the registry was formed in 1992 and later amended to include sex offenses dating all the way back to 1982. “And that was a mistake.”

So what should Maine, caught between protecting kids and preventing vigilante executions, do about it now?

In addition to sounding the alarm about the sexual abuse and exploitation of children, Diamond used his book to launch a six-step plan for improving Maine’s less-than-perfect approach to the problem.

And lo and behold, it appears to be working.

Under legislation sponsored by Diamond and opposed by no one, the Maine Sex Offender Registry will move next year to a three-tiered classification system:

Offenders convicted of Class D and E crimes will be listed for 15 years; those with Class B and C convictions will be listed for 25 years; and those who commit the most serious, Class A crimes will be registered for life.

At the same time, the registry will explain in lay terms what labels like “gross sexual assault” and “unlawful sexual contact” actually mean.

Another already-passed bill, also pushed by Diamond, commits $360,000 to the Maine Department of Public Safety’s Computer Crimes Unit – enough to add two detectives and a forensic examiner to an 11-person staff that as of this week has yet to even look at more than 600 stacks of DVDs, still photos and other backlogged evidence.

(As Diamond told the Appropriations Committee while it considered adding money to the Computer Crimes Unit: “Tell me one thing that’s more important than this. One thing in that $6.5 billion (state budget) that’s more important than saving these kids. Tell me right now.”)

And when his time in Augusta ends later this year? Will Diamond set this crusade aside and move on to something, shall we say, less traumatizing?

Not a chance.

Diamond plans to travel Maine and beyond, alerting anyone who will listen that sexual abuse of children – horrific as it is even to imagine – happens far more frequently than most of us choose to believe. Right here in Maine.

He might even go beyond what’s in his book: One thing he didn’t include about that 2-year-old in Stephen and Tina Bickart’s bedroom is that in every picture, the girl is crying.

Diamond tapped the book cover. It shows a little girl, her eyes blacked out, her mouth and chin smeared with lipstick, her face devoid of any and all emotion.

“I’ll never get rid of this,” he said quietly. “Never.”

 

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: [email protected]