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Colorado ruling sparks deeper debate over sex offender registries

By Kaitlin Durbin . . . When David sifted through the mail the morning of his 18th birthday, he hoped to find cards with money. Instead, he received a warrant for his arrest. The charge: statutory rape.

It was 2007, and the 17-year-old junior basketball star had recently moved to a small Missouri town, population less than 500, and almost immediately started dating a girl who was one month shy of her 14th birthday. They were intimately involved for nearly three months before David ended the relationship.

A few weeks later, the girl accused him of statutory rape, statutory sodomy and second-degree child molestation. His father drove him to the local sheriff’s office that night to turn himself in. David cried on the way, and he cried recalling his horror and embarrassment a decade later, from his home in Colorado Springs.

He eventually would plead guilty to second-degree child molestation and tampering with a witness in a deal that spared him rape charges, records showed. Still, he’s required to register his address with the state once a year.

“Once you get that sex offender label, it’s with you for life,” David, 28, said. “I think of myself as trash.”

But sex offender?

“No,” he said.

He asked that The Gazette not use his last name to protect his identity.

Because David pleaded to a misdemeanor, his face isn’t found on any online sex offender registry, which shows only adult felony offenders’ names, addresses, photos and other identifying features. But because he’s tracked by the state, his information is public. If someone were curious enough, they could ask their local law enforcement agency for a list of all registered offenders in their area, misdemeanants included. They’d find David’s information there among men and women who have raped, distributed child pornography or molested young children.

While none of his neighbors in southeast Colorado Springs has discovered his secret – as far as he knows – he’s suffered repercussions because of his “sex offender” label. He struggled to get a job, find a place to live, start a romantic relationship, be a father or generally move from under the dark cloud that has followed him since his conviction, he said.

– – –

His plight is at the heart of a debate in Colorado over whether the state’s public sex offender registry as it exists is needed for an informed public – or if it is cruel and unusual punishment.

The registry, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, makes it difficult for offenders to find work and housing. That’s especially true for sexually violent predators, whose information is required to be distributed to the public with each move. Routine visits from law enforcement can also give offenders away.

The lawsuit argues that the notoriety often subjects offenders to consequences long after they’ve completed their sentences. It’s one of the reasons the online Sexual Offender Tracking and Registration website specifically warns that the registry is not to be used “for any type of individual retribution, retaliation, discrimination, harassment or additional punishment,” against sex offenders.

Still, it happens.

Rob Meredith Jr., CSPD detective with the registered sex offender unit, said he’s heard occasional complaints from the city’s roughly 1,400 sex offenders who have suffered harassment at the hands of their neighbors, but it is usually short-lived, Meredith said. Those who harass can be charged, he said.

The argument that the registry itself can result in repercussions was part of Senior Judge Richard Matsch’s ruling in September that the Colorado Sex Offender Registration Act is unconstitutional. Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is appealing the ruling.

As it stands, Matsch’s ruling applies only to the three plaintiffs in that particular case – David is not party to the case – but officials wonder what effects it could have on how the registry is maintained and who has access to it.

– – –

Discrimination, not harassment, has been the worst punishment for David.

He’d moved to Colorado Springs in 2013 for a fresh start, after serving time in prison for “running” when he was on probation and legally bound to Missouri. Since then he has struggled to find stability.

He slept on the street or on couches for months until a coworker offered him one of her rentals. He never tried for any other housing.

“Why waste the application fee if you already know you have felonies, you’re a sex offender?” David said. “Why even try, just to get shot down?”

He lucked out with employment, he said, finding a company that, at the time, didn’t require background checks. Today, he makes $60,000 a year managing three of the company’s locations.

But what if he loses his job? What if he wants to advance to a higher paying career? He’s stuck, he said.

In an effort to better his future, David is petitioning to be removed from the registry, something he didn’t realize he could have done years ago. He has no other criminal charges.

Aiding in his defense is his victim.

The woman, who we’re identifying by her initials, S.C., which were used in court records, sent David texts in February asking for a judge to “give him a second chance.” He plans to include the messages as part of his petition.

During their conversation, David asked her explicitly, “Did I every (sic) force you to have sex with me? Did I ever hold you down and force sexual things?”

“No u (sic) didn’t. Force me. I wanted to have sex with u. We were kids. And he never forced sexual stuff on me,” S.C. responded.

In another message she identifies herself by her full name and says “we were just kids. In love and had each other at that time…”

Whether consensual or not, their sexual relations were still illegal.

Unlike some other states, there is no “Romeo and Juliet” exception to sexual offenses in Missouri. The law, named for William Shakespeare’s young lovers, typically protects young people from criminal charges in consensual sexual activity with other teens over the age of 14 but under the age of 18. Federal law also shows leniency toward sexual relations between two people between the ages of 12 and 18, as long as the couple is not more than four years apart (David was three years and 10 months older than S.C).

But in Missouri, the age of consent is 17. No exceptions.

Please watch the video and read the remainder of this article in The Gazette of Colorado Springs.

This topic contains 26 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Al 2 months ago.

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  • #23841 Reply

    A mom

    David your story is so typical of many others. Something needs to change so that once you have done the time, you can move on. My son spent 8 years in prison and was recently released, he needs to serve 15 years of probation also. It was not rape it was consensual, she was 15. He found out that he was the second male to be prosecuted for having sex with her. She goes unpunished. Maybe this was a game to her.
    Does anyone know if anyone has fought Florida State about “unjust punishment” for sex offenders?

    • #23872 Reply

      Will Crump

      Teens like the one that had sex with your son should be punished severely. She was well beyond old enough to know better than to do what she did. A 15 to 17-year-old knows better than to have sex with someone over the age of majority. Why can’t they be punished for delinquent behavior? Why should only the older party be punished? Not right at all. I think it is a game to the girl your son had sex with. She probably thinks it’s funny and cute. It gives her the power, the freedom to screw whomever and face NONE of the consequences.

      • #23942 Reply

        Maestro

        “She probably thinks it’s funny and cute. It gives her the power, the freedom to screw whomever and face NONE of the consequences”

        Will Crump,

        That’s called 3rd wave feminism. Females can do NO wrong.

    • #23905 Reply

      Tim L

      Dear A Mom,

      If you want info about “what’s going on in Florida” I’d suggest you head over to http://www.oncefallen.org. Derek has visited the camps there and is very informed on the issue in “Floriduh” generally.
      Derek’s website is excellent and you will be able to speak with him if you so choose. This is a guy you can trust with you kids – I would.!

      Best wishes

  • #23847 Reply

    Kathy

    Two things: I believe the registry should only be available to Law Enforcement. The regustry puts peoples lives in jeaprody. I have heard of two murders as a result of the registery, neighbors of the ones who had already done their time.

    As I sit here writing this with tears running down my face from pain I feel I am being punished also. The judge said she was going to make an example of my son. He was given an excessive sentence for what he did. Already in prison going on 12 years. I am older and just went through cancer etc. Now having extreme pain in my neck and shoulder. I need my son badly. Its difficult to do many things. He needs his family as well. He was successful in all other aspects of his life but somehow got on the wrong path. He is now a better man than I could ever have imagined. People make mistakes, people learn and people change. These offenders pay the rest of their lives !

    • #23858 Reply

      Donna Mas

      My heart goes out to all the people on the registry. Anyone who thinks harassment is not a problem is sadly mistaken. As a mother of a son who in so many ways is a wonderful person, it breaks my heart to see what other family members are going through. I do believe the police need to know who is on the registry and I do believe there are certain jobs that should never be held by people on the registry no matter the extenuating circumstances. If for no other reason than their own safety. My son is guilty of exposing himself and he needs help not incarceration. On two occasions children were present. So yes, he needs help. The amount of money spent on incarcerating him could have been spent on therapy of some kind to help him. I am always amazed that we praise people who have commited other crimes and have turned their lives around and become productive members of society but sadly offenders are not included.

  • #23852 Reply

    Saddles

    I agree with mom with what she said and a lot of others that haven’t chimed in yet. Of course there are pro’s and con’s to all this. I have to say that one should stand up to all this sex offender stuff. The guy David served his time. His bit of probation he has to do that seems to be runnng along with the jail time to complete this wreckless event. Sure the law wants to hold others back with this sex offender label but is that true justice or man’s justice?
    Man is just as sinfull as their counterpart woman. Now all of us know what a stab in the back is but yes a second chance is good. Matter the good lord believes in a second, third, forth, etc. Man is a bit different in all this sex situation when they are just as sinnful. Sure I believe in protecting and serving but when protecting and serving get out of line man always tries to justify themself. They have always done that. Even with the blacks and whites and discrimination laws.
    Talk about being raped, people can rape you with words haven’t you heard that saying “the tounge is mightier than the sword”. Look that up when you all get time. I never wanted to take my plea deal or bargain or whatever you want to call it as thats not true justice in a lot of ways. We can all fight back and forth of who’s right, or talk about this or that law but in the end its all about money. It seems people don’t care about others a the sex registry is a disgrace to all and I would oppose that in a minute or speak up about it. Sure I get in my pitty pot but if I dont’ build myself up than thats my fault.

  • #23863 Reply

    Will Crump

    I was hopeful the tide would turn on this issue after the Supreme Court refused to grant Certiorari to Michigan following the 6th Circuit’s ruling against the retroactive application of the sex offender registry and it’s newest restrictions. It defies reason that retroactively applying residency restrictions is punitive, but withholding a person’s freedom indefinitely AFTER finishing their properly adjudged prison sentence is NOT worthy of the Court’s highest level of scrutiny. How can the court deny that one’s very freedom is unworthy of the court’s most critical evaluation?

    • #23874 Reply

      Will Crump

      Earlier I misspoke. I said, “How can the court deny that one’s very freedom is unworthy of the court’s most critical evaluation?”. I meant to say, How can the court possibly reason that one’s very freedom is NOT worthy of their strictest scrutiny? Life, LIBERTY AND PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS ARE INALIENABLE RIGHTS!!

  • #23879 Reply

    Michael Miller

    It really amazes me that something like this happens to young people who are in love (If they had waited 4 years it would have been ok) but yet people like Harvey Weinstein gets away with it because they have money and influence.And because of that they will never have to fear or worry about being on a registry. Our Judicial system is geared to help and assist anyone who has the money and the influence to do so and those that are less fortunate pay the full price. I was accused of a Lewd act and was fortunate to only get 3 years in prison.(age was a factor but I was told that they were of age) But during the same time a Teacher who admitted to having sex with 16 year old girls got his sentence reduced to assault of a high and aggravated nature and got 2 years probation. He had money and knew people. All are not created equal and it shows in our judicial system. Its time for a revamp if I have saw one!

  • #23880 Reply

    Maestro

    “Whether consensual or not, their sexual relations were still illegal”

    That right there is why I am sick and tired of the use of the term “victim”. If the relationship is consensual there is no “victim”. It can be illegal without having to refer to the younger person as a victim.

    I’m sure there are some among you who will disagree but reality is reality – teenagers DO consent to sex. And all it takes is the legislature to lower the age of consent or raise the age of consent and everyone just agrees with what the legislature makes into law.
    Just because THEY determine that a 15 yr old cannot give consent does not mean a 15 yr old DOESN’T give consent.
    By saying that every single solitary human being at 13-15 yrs of age cannot give consent because they ALL too immature is the same as painting every person that has a sex offense with a broad brush. It’s the same thing. There are teenagers (myself included back in my day) who just happen to like and feel more comfortable around older people. Deny it if you want to but no human being is connected to another human being at the brain stem and thinking and feeling like one another at any post pubescent age.
    Broad brush. Period. And the woman even admits, years later as an adult, that she consented.

    Why are underage drinkers not referred to as “victims”? Why does only a natural act such as sex require SOMEONE to be a “victim”?

    It’s not that every single person who is under the particular state’s legal age is too immature to know what they’re doing, some do, some don’t. So if they want to make it illegal, fine. But don’t make someone register and make someone else a victim unless they intend to do the same with “kids” who make the CHOICE to get ahold of cigarettes and alcohol.
    It’s not that a teenager of a specific age cannot give consent, it’s that they aren’t ALLOWED to.
    Just as they are not ALLOWED to drink alcohol.

    Nix the “victim” crutch. Cuz that’s all it is as a way to make people scared of us – a crutch.

    • #23900 Reply

      Tim L

      Maestro,

      You may be sick of the word victim, but since being a victim has become so lucrative financially and socially, the use of the term is not likely to abate anytime soon.
      We have thousands of attorneys in the U.S. whom base their entire career on taking advantage of those who’ve been hurt. These attorneys are referred to as ambulance chasers. Gloria Allred is a perfect example. She is representing some of H. Weinstein’s former underlings\ accusers. You can bet she will make a tidy profit from her council! You can also bet your home that Ms. Allred is a supporter of the SORS.

      As far as keeping the the SORS for police eyes only that approach will also not lead to measurable public safety increase. The cops will in the vast majority of instances will show up AFTER the crime is committed!

      Furthermore the SORS are used in every kidnapping case to form a list of ” persons of interest” to be checked by police. I have twice found myself being questioned by law enforcement – both local and FBI – when a kid has come up missing near where I lived even though I had nothing to do with any of it.

      IT CANNOT BE IN THE INTEREST OF PUBLIC SAFETY TO QUESTION THOSE WHO HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH A GIVEN CRIME! In fact I was never ever accused of or faced trial for kidnapping!
      Yet this type of behavior by the police occurs regularly, Thus can only be considered wasteful of resources if not unnecessary harassment. I can see now how we have gotten our country with such a huge national debt – 20 trillion and counting up! God save us!

    • #23910 Reply

      Dave

      The word victim is very powerful in this day and age. It has the power to trump the constitution. It can destroy anyone anywhere no matter who they are even when it is a lie.

  • #23881 Reply

    Maestro

    “Two things: I believe the registry should only be available to Law Enforcement”

    Kathy,

    This would not help us at all. It would mean that the po-po will still harrass us on their little home visits and Halloween round ups and denial of shelter in severe storms (thankfully not here in CT but in many other states).
    Therefore the registry needs to be abolished completely. Police should not be allowed to harrass people who are NOT currently breaking any laws and if the registry was only for the police depts, you can bet they’d still do their harassing.

    • #23902 Reply

      Jerry

      Maestro you are totally right. How many time have you been pulled over during a routine traffic stop and the cop is so nice and respectful until he comes back to your vehicle after running your drivers license? They then are mouthy and just plain disrespectful. As long as they have access to the registry you can expect that to happen for as long as we live.

  • #23894 Reply

    Saddles

    This new posting brings up a very good case and yes a good debate. Seems man wants to solve the sex offender problem with logic, sort of tell all that that guy did this or that girl did that way back when, and we as law enforcement have to make sure we keep him in control for the rest of their life either in jail or on the registry. We have to tell them were to live and that they can’t live around schools, parks, etc They even have to watch who they see as that person may be a bad influence on them. We even have to put a curfew on them for x amount of time.
    So the sex offender has to compromise a lot of things. It don’t matter to me as all I want to do is get thru this ordeal. As I look at all this in a way its a learning experience but in other ways its hardship on others. Are we not suppose to help thy neighbor and love, are we not suppose to do good for evil, are we not suppose to share each others burden.
    You know when I go see my friend in the nursing home I would sometimes rather be in the nursing home than out in public as its getting so bad a nursing home is a lot safer and a lot less nerve racking. I think sometimes maestro is gonna go off the wall sometimes on this but cheer up all it will all be over soon or maybe government doesn’t wash their hands in dirty water.

  • #23901 Reply

    Sue Wearethepeople

    David I know you will win, and be taken off this terrible nightmare. My heart goes out to you! This very familiar story happened to my grandson. He was given 33 month to 17 years in a State Prison. He had just turned 18, the girl said she was 16. The State of Pa Commonwealth, were the ones who pressed the charges, not the girl who was 2 months less then 14, and admitted she lied about her age. His horror will last him a lifetime. What a future for a wonderful grandson to look forward too. I was hoping for College, but instead it is weekly visits to a Prison where he just waits for the day to come home. I do not look forward to what nightmare he will have to face when he is released. This is NOT right at all!

  • #23903 Reply

    Darrel Hoffman

    Michigan’s SORA says that if a person distributes, utters, or publishes information of a known registrant, that person will face 93 days in jail and/or $1000 fine for each offense. However, it isn’t enforced and tMichigan State Police (MSP) said it only applied to juvenile offenders who were no longer on the registry. When the Legislature first passed the SORA, they included that provision because of the problems Oregon was having with people looking up sex offenders and driving them from their homes. The Legislature didn’t want that happening here, but it does. I had a “preacher” down load mine and distribute it throughout the congregation and my neighborhood, forcing me to leave the church. My neighbors, thank God, didn’t appreciate what the hypocrite did, but the damage was done. When my roommate and I checked out suing the guy over it ( for the law continues that civil damages can be sued for if such acts are done against a registrant), the MSP said we couldn’t do it for the previously stated reason. They said MAYBE we could sue for harrassment. Yeah right, in Michigan Courts? The good thing is that the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down most of the registry has unconstitutional punishment, which the Supreme Court just upheld. It has now caused a huge debate in Michigan about the worth of the registry. I look at that a the first nail in the registry’s coffin. There needs to be more until it’s dead and buried.

  • #23908 Reply

    Tim L

    In many ways we the people have fallen into the oldest trap in the world. Our so called puritan tradition has been our demise. Is it or is it not… the oldest trick in the book for the religious right to discredit men and women on the basis of moral turpitude? So I pair that concept with the database and I get why the first NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY DATABASE was built in Utah.

    The people’s choice to utilize a database in the fashion as it does with the sex offender seemed reasonable enough at the time, yet the issue could not have risen to the level of a national security concern. Or did it?

    From the perspective of individual liberty the people have chosen to not only to place persons images and descriptions upon it. No the people went further than that, they indentured people to the machine AND its maintenance. Like a cotton field the databases are property- real estate if you will. The databases incessantly desire updates of information. This too resembles the cotton field in that providing the info may be prickly and sometimes hurt. So we have data as a commodity just like the bales of cotton. So maybe the powers that were recognized the potential for the database technology. Powerful indeed they must have thought! How best to use it?

  • #23909 Reply

    no hope

    i love how the detective said the harassment is short lived obviously he has never known a sex offender as a friend or family member or he would know that he was not even close to correct in making that statement.
    When you go on a web site like any rso or your listed on the local news/periodicals anywhere where the locals scare everyone into thinking all rso’s are evil you will be harassed and in the age of technology thats everywhere all the time

  • #23949 Reply

    Saddles

    While man can play with this registry law, NARSOL’s newsbeat section caught my eye about the man in Ireland with 217 convictions. Now that is a bit too much and a bit overkill. I’m beginning what sexual abuse is anymore. Sure slapping a female or anything or maybe calling her some slur name or whatever. Touching a kid today even repromanding can be sexual abuse if the kid gets so mad. Is is all coming down to the consicious or bowing down to the the Government. I don’t think the Government own’s any of us. Sure we all should be responsible for his or herself but if thats the case any women could yell rape or whatever she wants if she’s mad enough. Men don’t have that option because women are consider the weaker of the sexist. Whoever thought of these laws its a money maker for someone. A lot of these rulings are overly overrated.
    Sure protecting is good but protecting is just how for one goes to try to work it out. Now when one gets physical thats a whole different story. Releaving oneself out in the woods might even be dangerous. Woody wood pecker might be watching. Gilbert Goffery, Brian and I thought I had all my marbles…

    • #24007 Reply

      Kendal

      Well his crimes were mostly flashing, and they called that a “danger” to women and children. So now, someone just seeing your bits is now a danger. And 217, if he flashed just one person a day, would take less than a year.

  • #24126 Reply

    Al

    Almost 10 years now. Just about finished with my probation. In this time ( i have to police reports to prove these events)
    I have been shot in the leg, attacked by a guy with a knife twice, had my break lines cut on my truck 7 times, windows ( truck and house) broken, notes left on and spray painted on my truck, physically attacked 3 times, had a rifle pointed at me while walking my dog, verbal abuse… those are the ones that stand out. Few of these instances it was the same guy. Nothing ever happened to him.

    I also developed PTSD hyper vigilant, depression, strange sleep cycles.. My wife of 12 years just could not take it anymore. I cant blame her. Who wants to live with someone who is distant and paranoid?

    I have 106 days of probation to go. Then I can apply to not have to register for the extra 5 years of reg i was given 7 years after my sentencing.

    My hope is to buy a small trailer, pack myself and my dogs up and move. Not sure where I will go. Had been thinking the northwest. Ill just be ” the new old dude that lives up in the hills”.

    Oh, my crime? I had consensual sex with a girl that was 17 years 11 months and two weeks old. I was 36 at the time and thought she was older.

  • #24600 Reply

    R. Arens

    Dude, stuff like this makes me ashamed to call myself an american. If I was Zuckerberg rich, I’d buy a island and let the people who keep it real live on it. What we really need is to get all 800 thousand sex offenders and their friends and family to go all in and straight wage civil war against these corrupt pieces of s__t! I’m telling ya, wars have been waged over pettier things than this. Our nation thinks that when it comes to civil rights for sex offenders, they can wipe their a__es with it because it don’t apply to us. Everything that’s happened to the Jew, the black, people from the middle east (post 911,) that s__t is happening to us! Violence, bigotry, stereotyping, all manners of intoleranice. If a guy beats up a sex offender, it’s not a hate crime; it’s 5th degree assault because we’re not even a protected class. If they gave us the same protections they gave those of race, disability, sexual orientation, etc. Those who assault us would go fed for 5 years and the penalty for sex crimes would just be a fine or jail, nothing more. That wouldn’t do for our nosy oppressive government.

  • #24942 Reply

    Wes gray

    The important thing is it’s a start, maybe we are finally waking up. We need to keep fighting and not give up. Offenders, families, all advocate. Do not fear. The stigma of all this has even caused our children to commit suicide. Only we can stop the abuse, stop the witch hunt. Fight back now. Maybe soon we will see registry and so many irrational laws put to an end.

    • #25321 Reply

      Shem Slocum

      Im in nebraska. I was convitcted of attempted sexual assault on a child for literally giving a 14 yr old girl a titty twister when i was 26. The conviction date is 2006 i was sentenced to 10years on the registry and 2 yrs probation. In 2009 they changed the statute and now i have to wait an additional 5 years. I should have been off the registry a year ago but im not and to get off before 2021 i would have to go to this hyper expensive, year long, intensive sex offender therapy. Its an ex post facto law that somehow nobody is doing anything about. I donated to change.org today. Maybe my $10 can help
      Ive lost 2 meaningful relationships at least partially due to the extreme pressures of being with someone on the registry. Ive had to worry about someone at school saying something to my teenage daughter. I worry about teachers demonizing my 5 yr old son because of the way ive been demonized. The sex offender registry is criminal. In nebraska they post everyone on the registry on the sheriff dept. Facebook page with vague information leaving me looking like a pedophile. We need change for the future of our children an the elimination of the 21st century witchhunt! https://www.change.org/p/please-help-reform-the-sex-offender-registry?j=167711&sfmc_sub=565195510&l=32_HTML&u=31347245&mid=7233052&jb=624

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