California Reform Sex Offender Laws (CA RSOL) filed a lawsuit (PDF) in federal district court today challenging websites which identify individuals as sex offenders and include their personal information, including names, photos, and home addresses as well as demand up to $500 for removal of that information from the websites.
“It is time to stop the extortion of more than 750,000 individuals in this country,” stated Janice Bellucci, President of CA RSOL. “Those who work for or with these websites have engaged, and continue to engage, in a pattern of racketeering activities.”
According to the lawsuit, individuals connected with three websites – Offendex, Online Detective and SORarchives have violated both federal and state laws. The laws include the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (18 U.S.C. 1961 et seq.), the right of publicity (California Civil Code 3344) as well as the intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“We’ve heard so many stories of people who have completed their registration period and yet are unable to move on with their lives,” stated Brenda Jones, Executive Director of Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc. “The only way they can be free is to submit to the extortion of profiteers like Offendex and that is simply appalling.”
There are a total of 10 plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including residents from five states (California, Washington, Oregon, Kentucky and Tennessee). Plaintiffs include individuals convicted of sex-related offenses as well as one wife and one mother who have never been convicted of a crime.
“For-profit companies that provide false information about a former offender cause collateral damage to the families of offenders,” stated Vicki Henry, Director of Women Against Registry. “The additional financial burdens placed on the families by the companies that require a fee for removal from their website and the misinterpretation of the individual significantly limit the employment opportunities of a former offender.”
The lawsuit was filed today in U.S.District Court, Central District of California, Western Division in Los Angeles, California. Organizations providing support, including financial support, to this effort include Women Against Registry, Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc., and Families Against the Registry (Facebook).