Monday, July 8, 2013

NH - Paying off his debt to society, inside prison and out

Keep calm cause I'm not a monster
Original Article



[name withheld] knows people think he’s a monster.

He’s heard it in the violent shaking of his apartment walls. He’s read it in the letters he receives in the mail, and in the emails he sees online. And he’s seen it in the eyes of anyone who knows his story, that he served time for felonious sexual assault.

The label sticks close to him, like a tail zigzagging behind a kite, always there, always following, even after a quick change of direction.

I just want to live my life,” says [name withheld], sitting in the living room in his Rochester apartment on a humid afternoon. “Let me live my life with my wife. Leave me alone.”

His name is forever listed online, on the state’s sex offender registry, reserved for “monsters.” He had sex, at age 32, with a 15-year-old girl three times over two days in 2000.

He says the encounter, consensual, should be looked at differently than the crimes of rapists portrayed in the movies, the hiding-in-the-bushes guy, the pedophile who stalks kids.

That’s for you to decide.

On the state sex offender registry, and in the minds of most people he’s met, there is no distinction.

He received a two- to four-year sentence in 2000.

Later he made headlines when he and the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union sued the city of Dover, which at the time had an ordinance that said convicted sex offenders couldn’t live within 2,500 feet of a school or day-care center.

That was four years ago. In a precedent-setting decision, a judge ruled in [name withheld]’s favor, saying the ordinance was unconstitutional. In Dover, at least, [name withheld] could live where he wanted.

But the court victory brought more unwanted attention and thrust [name withheld] into a brighter spotlight as both a sex offender and a person who helped other sex offenders move about with more freedom.

Ever since I challenged the ordinance, I’m the monster,” [name withheld] said. “Because of me, I’m the one who puts children back into harm’s way.”

He’s 46 now and married, living on disability because of a metastasizing melanoma that he says is terminal.

[name withheld]’s rap sheet is long, dating to his late teens in Exeter, and filled with burglary and criminal trespassing convictions, as well as one for drug possession. He said his father left the family when he was in grade school, and his mother simply couldn’t handle him by herself.

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