In 1994 the Jacob Weeterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act passed as a part of the Federal Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcment Act. The law was the first of its kind to implement a registry for those convicted of sexual offenses and crimes against children. Two years later, Megan’s Law amended the Wetterling Act, establishing the first “community notification system”, bringing those convicted out into the open. The law also required lifetime registration for recidivist and offenders who committed certain offenses. In 1998, this lifetime registration was expanded to include all sexually violent offenders, federal and military offenders, and nonresident students or workers.
While there is obvious value in identifying those who could pose a danger to society, especially children, the current system has created a culture of fear that is leading to overreaction and ultimately unfair or unjust punishment of those accused of sexual crimes. What follows are some examples of the type of paranoia driven scenarios that demonstrate the flaws in the current system.
1. Girl, 15, Branded Sex Offender for Nude Photos
In Late 2008, a 15 year old girl in Licking County Ohio was arrested and charged in juvenile court for “possessing criminal tools and illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material”. The girls “criminal tool” was a cell phone and MMS (multimedia messaging service). Her “illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material” were nude photos of herself. The girl was charged with the crimes after sending a nude photo of herself to some of her high school classmates. Essentially, she was charged with being a child pornographer of herself. In Ohio, state law requires child pornographers to be given Tier 2 sexual offender status, which requires a 20 year public registration. -Source
2. Man Grabs Girl’s Arm – Now He’s a Sex Offender
Fitzroy Barnaby, a 28 year old man from Evanston Illinois was prosecuted for attempted kidnapping and child abduction following an incident where he nearly hit a female teen pedestrian with his vehicle. At the trial, the teen girl testified that Barnaby had jumped out of his car after the near miss and yelled, “Come here, little girl” then grabbing her arm. She broke away and called the police.
Barnaby says he simply wanted to talk to the girl about the importance of being careful when crossing the street. The jury accepted Barnaby’s version, but nonetheless found him guilty of unlawful restraint of a minor, a sexual offense under Illinois Law. Barnaby is now on the states sexual offender registry and must keep authorities informed of his place of residency. He can not live near school or parks, and will likely be ostracized by those who discover his status as a sex offender.
The Judge that handed down his sentence acknowledged his own difficulty with the case by saying:
“It’s more likely than not he only intended to chastise the girl” ” I don’t really see the purpose of registration in this case, I really don’t” ” But I feel that I am constrained by the statute” -Source
3. Man Ordered to Move Because of Public Urination 20 Years Ago
Twenty-one years ago, Jaun Matamoros was drunk while out with friends in Massachusetts. Unable to find a bathroom, he urinated on the street beside a car. Unfortunately for Juan, three people witnessed him relieving himself and he was quickly arrested for public urination. Juan was subsequently charged with “lewd and lascivious behavior”.
Up until recently, his youthful drunken mistake hadn’t cost him much more than embarrassment, but that all changed when authorities in his new home city of Deltona, Florida got wind of his conviction. According to local laws and ordinances, Juan’s conviction classifies him as a sex offender. Under these stricter guidelines, Juan is prohibited from living within 2,500 feet of a school, bus stop, day-care center, park or playground. So now, Juan and his family, who live near several parks, must pick up and move or face prosecution for violating sex offender laws, all because of a public urination offense 20 years ago. -Source
4. 4 Year Old Accused of “Sexual Harassment”
In Dec 2006, WACO, Texas school administrators gave a 4 year old pre-school student an in-school suspension for “inappropriately touching” a teachers aid, after the child hugged the woman. The letter from administrators to the parents of the child said the boy was:
“involved in inappropriate physical behavior interpreted as sexual contact and/or sexual harassment.”
DaMarcus Blackwell, the boys father, is baffled by the schools stance, and wonders how a child so young could sexually harass anyone. He has filed a complaint with the district. -Source
5. Man Barred from Photographing His Children in Public
Gary Crutchley thought taking his kids to a local park would be a great opportunity to get some memorable pictures of his kids playing, but innocent snap shots of his two kids led to him being accused of perversion. After taking the the picture to the left of his kids on a blow up slide, the woman running the slide demanded he stop taking pictures. When asked why, the woman said he could not take pictures of other peoples children.
Mr Crutchley calmly explained he was only interested in pictures of his own children, even going as far as to show the pictures he had taken to the woman to prove the point. Unsatisfied, the woman running the slide claimed he could be taking pictures of any child, and even went so far as to accuse Mr. Crutchly of being a pervert, and intending to publish images of other children on the internet. -Source
6. Girl, 13 Charged as Sex Offender and Victim
In 2003 a 13 year old Salt Lake City girl and her 12 year old boyfriend were found guilty of delinquency – the legal term in juvenile court for a conviction, after the girl became pregnant. State authorities alleged that both the boy and the girl had committed sexual abuse of a child by having sex with each other, a second-degree felony if committed by an adult.
For juveniles who are 16 and 17, having sex with others in their own age group does not qualify as a crime. Juveniles who are 14 or 15 that engage in sex with peers can be charged with unlawful conduct with a minor, but the law provides for mitigation when the age difference is less than four years, making the offense a misdemeanor. Unfortunately, for adolescents under 14, there are no exceptions or mitigation, because adolescents under 14 are not considered capable of consenting to sex under the law.
Thus, under Utah state law, the girl and her boyfriend were both found guilty of violating state law, and were both also the victims in each others “crime”. According to Associate Chief Justice Michael Wilkins, “The only thing that comes close to this is dueling” where two people who take 20 paces and then shoot could each be considered both victim and offender. -Source
7. Louisiana Proposes Bill to Castrate Sex Offenders
In April 2008, Louisiana Senator Nick Gautreaux proposed a bill that would require a judge to order treatment for certain second-offense sex criminals with a drug designed to diminish male sexual urges. The drug is essentially a form of chemical castration, it lowers male sexual urges by shutting down testosterone production also rendering the male infertile. Under the bill, the sex offender would have the choice of chemical castration, or physical castration if they wanted to avoid the drugs side effects. -Source
8. Drowning Child Goes Unaided – Tragic Turn for Sexual Predator Paranoia
On Nov. 28, 2002, 2 year old Abigail Rae drowned in a village pond in England after wandering away from her nursery school. This case would be tragic enough, but after the girls death, it was revealed that just minutes before the girl drowned, a local man had seen the toddler wandering off on her own without an adult in sight. Bricklayer, Clive Peachey, drove past her in his truck, but did not stop. After the incident, Mr. Peachey stated:
” I kept thinking I should go back. The reason I didn’t was because I thought people might think I was trying to abduct her.”
So, instead of stopping, he assured himself the parents must be close by and would find her soon. Meanwhile, the nursery staff searched. When the mother noticed the staff near her home, she was told they were looking for a “lost dog” but the truth soon emerged. The frantic mother’s search ended when she leaped into the pond to fish out what she thought was Abby’s shoe, instead pulling out the girls lifeless body. -Source
9. Man Refused Shelter – Freezes to Death
In January 2009 Grand Rapids, MI officials found Thomas Pauli frozen to death on the streets. In recent weeks, Mr. Pauli had tried several times to gain admittance to at least one of the two Heartside missions for the homeless. His attempts to find shelter were denied because of his status as a registered sex offender. Officials say it is possible that Thomas Pauli would be alive today, except for the state law that prohibits sex offenders like him from establishing a residence, even for one night, within 1,000 feet of a school. In this case, both shelters fall within this zone because of their proximity to a high school. Although officials and volunteers at the shelters decried the current system, they acknowledged that they
“have to follow the law, but ethically, it feels like we were responsible” ” These men and women are clearly ‘The Scarlet Letter’ folks of our day. And where do they go? I have no answer.” -Source
10. Ricky and Amanda
Ricky and Amanda met at an Iowa club for teens in December of 2005. Ricky, who was 16 at the time really liked Amanda, who had told him she was also 16. The two talked, and instantly hit it off. They began dating, and had sex on several occasions. The relationship came to an abrupt end when Amanda told Riky’s mother that she was 14. She actually 13. Several months later, Amanda ran away from home and was eventually picked up by the police. Police questioned Amanda about why she left home, and during their interview, it came out that she had been involved with Ricky.
Ricky was soon questioned by police, and he admitted to sleeping with Amanda on two occasions before being informed of her real age. It ended when Amanda told Ricky’s mother she was only 14 and asked her not to reveal this to Ricky. Actually, she was 13. Although Amanda’s parents had no interest in pressing charges, the District Attorney was determined. Ricky was arrested and charged with two felony counts of third degree sexual abuse.
Ricky faced a 20 year prison term if the case went to trial, so in a plea deal, he plead guilty to one count of lewd or lascivious acts with a child. This conviction required Ricky to be registered as a sex offender for a period of 10 years, as well as 2 years probation. After the conviction, Ricky’s family moved from Iowa to Oklahoma, which had recently adopted more stringent categorization of sex offenders. This meant that because of the three year age difference between Ricky and Amanda, Ricky would be classified as a tier 3 sexual predator, a classification reserved for the most dangerous sex offenders in Oklahoma.
When authorities became aware of his status, he was removed from high school. He was prohibited from being in the presence of children other than his brother (had his brother been a girl, he would have been removed from his home.) Ricky’s social life was destroyed, he was ostracized, harassed, and ridiculed by his neighbors and members of his community. Ricky’s ability to live a normal teenagers life has been completely destroyed. -Source