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A young mother struggles with life on the sex offender registry

By David Feige . . . I met Shawna a year into filming “Untouchable,” a documentary that examines sex offender laws through the lives of individuals on the sex offender registry. It was at an Oklahoma treatment center where she was participating in a mandatory group therapy session. She was there because fifteen years earlier, Shawna was deemed to be a sexual predator after pleading guilty to having consensual sex with a 14-year-old boy when she was 19.

Listening to Shawna’s story, it became immediately clear that she was far from the kind of person we imagine when we think about sexual predators. She wasn’t some serial rapist or violent pedophile, but rather a young woman who happened to hook up with the wrong guy on her birthday. And as we continued to work on the film, we consistently found others consigned to the margins of society and slapped with a “sex offender” label that didn’t quite seem to fit.

In a desolate parking lot a few months later, I met Adrian. And while his story ultimately didn’t become part of the film, it stuck with me. Adrian was a junior at North Dakota State majoring in business management, when he traveled to Miami for spring break. There, he met a girl at an 18-and-over club. They flirted and danced, then walked to the beach where they had sex. They spent about five days together, hanging out on and off and occasionally hooking up.

Adrian returned to college after the trip and all seemed well, until seven months later when he got a call from a detective with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. As it turns out, the girl had used a fake ID to get into the club. She was actually 15 years old at the time. Her mom filed a complaint when she found out what had happened.

Asked to return to Miami to answer some questions, Adrian took a bus back to Florida. He explained to the detective that everything was consensual, and that he’d assumed the girl must have been 18 or older since she was in the club. Officers recorded his statement, thanked him for his co-operation, handcuffed him and placed him under arrest. Unable to post the $40,000 bond set by a judge, Adrian remained in jail for nearly eight months. It was the first and only time he’d ever been arrested.

In Florida, as in most other states, the fact that the girl was a willing participant was not a defense. Having admitted to the affair and facing some twenty years in prison, Adrian had no choice but to plead guilty to four counts of lewd and lascivious battery of a person under 16. That guilty plea guaranteed he’d spend the rest of his life listed on Florida’s sex offender registry.

Please read the rest at The Marshall Project.

David Feige is a former public defender, the co-creator of the TNT series “Raising the Bar” and the author of “Indefensible.” “Untouchable,” his documentary feature about sex offender laws, won the Best New Documentary Director prize at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

This topic contains 8 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Maestro 2 months, 3 weeks ago.

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  • #21696 Reply

    Maestro

    Ok. I have a problem with Shawna’s story….

    She was DRINKING and the teenager basically DID take advantage of her.
    It is technically a CRIME to have sex (even if it’s consensual) with a person who has been drinking. Even if the person is not FULLY intoxicated, it’s no different than being UNDER THE INFLUENCE and not having a good enough grasp on your own reasoning.

    So TECHNICALLY, the TEENAGER committed RAPE. Why was this 19 year old charged but not the male teen? Why?

    Oh, and Sandy, I do believe they made mention of the story about the two lovers on the beach. They DID get charged with a sex offense and they ARE required to register.

  • #21744 Reply

    Mary

    I haven’t seen the entire documentary of untouchable, but from what I’ve seen so far, it looks amazing.

    HBO is known for having some pretty good award winning documentaries and I can see this one worthy of being on there. It would be awesome if they pick this one up and aired it on their Network.

    Maybe David Feige could pitch it to them.

    • #21777 Reply

      Grace

      Agreed, maybe even huge networks like Netflix or Hulu who have 100 million + subscribers and produce academy award winning contents. Would love to see this documentary in full soon.

  • #21750 Reply

    Tony From Long Island

    Maestro, I would guess that laws pertaining to sex with someone who has been drinking differ from state to state. I am not familiar with the particulars of Oklahoma’s law.

    • #21871 Reply

      Maestro

      Here in CT it is considered a sexual offense if you engage in sexual activity (even if consensual) with a person who is intoxicated or even borderline intoxicated, even if that person is your own spouse or romantic partner. We were told that in the SO Treatment group.
      Hence the reason for the so-called “rape culture” on college campuses. People getting tipsy and then sleeping with someone they weren’t exactly attracted to.

      The 14 yr old male in this story committed a crime and this woman should take full advantage of the 3rd wave feminism of today’s society and bring charges against him or at least a law suit. But instead, she’s cowering down to the court system that convicted her.
      People in her situation need to be at the front of the lines when making a stand against SO laws.

      • #22037 Reply

        Jonny everyman

        Yeah because what jury is going to convict a 14 year old for having sex with a 19 year old. Nonsense

        Sex between two drunk parties isn’t the issue. Its the age of consent

        • #22093 Reply

          Maestro

          Well Johnny boy, come tell that to the sex offender treatment organization as well as the probation dept here in CT.

          For someone who doesn’t make the laws, you sure seem to know what is and isn’t nonsense in regards to the laws.

          Oh, and yes, the DA’s here in Connecticut WILL charge AND convict a 14 yr old MALE with rape if the other person is under the influence and incapable of giving consent regardless of that person’s age. You’re unaware that CT is a liberal state. Therefore – feminism.
          Or do you know more about CT laws than I do? Just. Curious. 😉

  • #21930 Reply

    Jim

    This video does a great job of presenting the injustice and ubsuridity of any sex offender registry. I am an old man now, and I just endure the present registry reality with grace, while continuing to pray, and hope, and help in whatever way I am able. However, this video disturbs me to great anger, and I am appalled at the lack of action on the part of legislators and other officials who have the power to end this madness. Politicians will literally sell their soul for a vote, and destroy any life if it lends to their success. The registry issues are coming to a head now, and it seems certain that it will all be put into lap of the SCOTUS. Should they rule once more against registered citizens we shall endure treatment that exceeds anything we could imagine. We are at present merely public and political fodder. God help us if these laws are not utterly struck down.

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