Monday, May 27, 2013

MD - Sex offender registration requirement challenged

Original Article


By Justin George

Corrections officials are refusing to remove a sex offender's name from the state's public database, defying a court order and setting off a legal battle that his lawyer says could affect scores of others convicted of sex crimes.

A man identified in court filings only as "John Doe," pleaded guilty in 2006 to a count of child sex abuse committed in 1984, when he was a junior high school teacher in Washington County.

The Court of Appeals ruled in March (PDF) that [name withheld], 53, should not be named on the sex offender registry because the database did not exist at the time of his crime and registration would be a form of retroactive punishment, which the Maryland Constitution doesn't allow.

Corrections officials say federal sex offender registration requirements prevent them from complying with the ruling. But [name withheld] asked a Washington County judge last week to hold the agency in contempt of court.

Nancy S. Forster[name withheld]' lawyer and Maryland's former chief public defender, argued in a petition that the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is violating her client's rights. Along with the department, the document also names its secretary Gary D. Maynard.

Forster said being on the registry has proven to be additional punishment.

"He struggles to find employment," she said. "The only employment that he can find is usually something very menial, and even then, once they discover he's on the registry, he loses that job as well."

Advocates for more-forgiving sex offender laws say the court ruling should affect other ex-convicts with similar legal circumstances as [name withheld]  If the state followed the ruling, they argue, these people could petition to remove themselves from the registry and find jobs and housing more easily as they re-integrate into society.

A contempt finding would put further pressure on state officials to comply with the ruling, Forster said.

State officials said they are reviewing the petition and researching how many people it might affect.

The corrections department and Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler's office, which is representing the agency, declined to comment further. The U.S. Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (S.M.A.R.T.), which works with the state on such laws, declined to comment as well.

[name withheld] received permission in 2009 from an Anne Arundel circuit judge to file the suit under "John Doe." Forster said she has sought to protect her client, who she acknowledged is [name withheld]  from being further ostracized and treated as a pariah.

[name withheld] pleaded guilty in June 2006 to one count of child sexual abuse. According to the statement of charges in the case, [name withheld] was a 24-year-old Boonsboro Middle School teacher during the 1983-1984 school year, when Maryland State Police allege he had sexual contact with several female students, exposed himself to them and encouraged them to touch him.

Police alleged that [name withheld] followed one 13-year-old student into a room and raped her. The Washington County Board of Education investigated a report of indecent exposure and inappropriate touching, but no allegations were reported to police at the time, according to court records.

It wasn't until the victim was a college senior that she disclosed the alleged sexual assault to a teacher and mentor. The victim contacted police in 2005, and a police investigator obtained past clinical notes, which showed the victim did disclose the rape to mental health professionals. Three other former students also came forward, accusing [name withheld] of molesting them during the same school year, the police report said.

Asked why the initial victim reported the rape two decades later, she told police, "I don't want another child to go through this."

[name withheld] accepted a plea deal in 2006 that dropped a second-degree rape charge and other sex offense charges. He declined to comment through Forster.

He was sentenced to a 10-year prison term with all but 4 1/2 years suspended. He also received three years of probation. And the court ordered [name withheld] to register as a child sexual offender.

In October 2006, [name withheld] filed a motion disputing the registration order because his crime occurred well before 1995, when the Maryland registry was created. A judge ruled in favor of [name withheld]. He was released from prison in 2008.

In 2009 legislators expanded its registry parameters, and [name withheld] was again ordered to register as a child sex offender, this time for 10 years. He sued to keep his name off the list, but a circuit judge rejected his claim.


loneranger said...

the constitution of all states and the federal constitution prohibits applying laws retrospectively. However they say this is a civil regulative law not meant to be punishment. Hanging on by a thread to this they pass any law they want to enhance the punishment cloaked in a obvious lie. One has to wonder after they know the damage these laws do and it no longer can be seen as unintended consequences. How much longer they will get away with this. When the results of being placed on this list are expected and equal to cruel and unusual punishment it is clear this is no longer a civil law but a part of the punishment and apart of the probation system. Making this punitive in every sense of the word. Politicians pretend that they are following the constitution because until a judge tells them different they are operating within the law. However when they are finally told they are not they face zero consequences for violating thousands of lives. Given they do this either out of ignorance or deliberate they have broken the law of the entire land by violating the constitution. One could say they are not qualified to create laws if they can not even uphold the constitution of the state or federal government. These are not little mistakes they are making. So how do we perceive the actions of these politicians and judges? One would think we need to do a better job electing these people or at least be able to hold them responsible for the damage they do to each and every person affected by their inability to do the job they were placed in office to do. We could make a list of these politicians and hold them accountable for the financial cost to the state they represent as well as the cost to the people directly affected by the laws they have crafted with no regard for the constitutions in doing so. Intentionally violating the law of the land that is in place to protect everyone. Simply by hiding behind a old precedent that doesn't apply any longer. To simply require someone to update their address each year is one thing but to add restrictions in addition to this removes it from being a regulatory and civil law to a punitive scheme violating the constitution that bans retroactive application as well as cruel and unusual punishment.

tom said...

loneranger you are so right. But I fear that nothing NOTHING and NO ONE will be able to stop this now. it is far too complicated now and the PUBLIC would go bananas! Yeah sad fact is the punishment is never ending. Sad fact is not one court is saying this is punishment yet they all say it is................Civil my action? I think not!

Mark said...

"Corrections officials say federal sex offender registration requirements prevent them from complying with the ruling. But [name withheld] asked a Washington County judge last week to hold the agency in contempt of court." Here is the legal conundrum: Maryland says Mr. X does not have to register, but the federal SORNA does. Enter Missouri, Same exact subject. The Missouri Supreme Court held that offenders DID NOT have to register for those who predated the sex registry enactment. One year later in STATE V KEATHLEY, the Missouri Supreme Court held that offenders that predated the Missouri Sex Offender Registry must register under the federal SORNA as it falls under the Supremacy Clause thus they must register federally. And if you research the law, you will go crazy - like on a merry-go-round reading some of the most tortured reasoning upholding these laws and driving researchers crazy trying to analyze case law. The courts have lost their "Joe Six Pack" mentality and to me it is a national judicial conspiracy to uphold one of the worst COLLECTIVE laws in American history. Also to the Loneranger: Kudos!