By Sandy . . . Three years ago, a spokesperson for NARSOL, then RSOL, was interviewed for an article about a young man named Guy Hamilton-Smith. In 2011 Guy had graduated from law school in the top third of his class, applied to take the Kentucky state bar exam, and, in spite of numerous awards, supporters, and testimonials on his behalf, had just been refused by the Kentucky State Supreme Court. Guy was, and is, on the Kentucky sex offender registry.
In February, 2015, a suit was filed against the Commonwealth of Kentucky by John Doe, plaintiff. Doe challenged the state’s right to prohibit his access to social media on the basis of his status of a registered sex offender.
On October 20, 2017, a decision was filed in the U.S. District Court, Eastern Division of Kentucky, in favor of the plaintiff.
The Doe in the case and the hopeful young law school graduate are the same.
The same day Guy posted on Reddit, and what he wrote quickly made its way to other social media platforms. How fitting! Guy wrote: (For those not familiar with Reddit, AMA means “ask me anything” — and this is reprinted with permission by Guy.)
My name is Guy Hamilton-Smith. I am a law school grad who was denied the ability to take the bar exam until I am 49 years old (currently 33). I am on the sex offender registry. I am in a documentary film in production. Today, I won a lawsuit that banned me from social media. AMA.
I’ve made a promise to myself, years ago, that if and when I ever won this lawsuit, I was going to do this. So, here goes. In 2006, when I was 22, I was arrested for possession of child pornography. I know that’s going to shut a lot of people down right there, and I totally get that.
I’m responsible for my actions. Starting when I was a teen, I developed a really unhealthy relationship with porn. I was bullied pretty badly, and so I found retreating to the relative safety of the online world to be comforting.
Porn became an hours at a time thing for me. As time wore on, I found my way into different branches of it, different types of porn. One day, when I was in high school, I came across an image of a nude girl, probably 14 or so. At first, it kind of freaked me out because I had this dull awareness that it was wrong. As time wore on, the taboo nature of it drew me back, and I began to download that amongst pretty much everything else that I came across.
There were times when I’d delete everything and swear I’d not go back to any of it, but I could never stick with it. I was in pretty deep denial, while at the same time in grad school for clinical psychology (ironic). I was terrified to ask for help, and some part of me knew I needed it, but I couldn’t ask.
So help came. My then-girlfriend stumbled across my pretty massive collection of porn, which included child pornography. She went to the police. I remember being in the interrogation room, and just crumbling. I confessed, and I felt so glad to finally be done lying about it.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the arrest saved my life, even in spite of the consequences that have flowed from that — consequences which I accept complete and unequivocal responsibility for. It got me into recovery, and it showed me a calling that I never would have encountered otherwise — law.
My experiences with the criminal justice system, as terrifying as they were for me personally, inspired me to apply to law school. I disclosed everything, and was accepted to the University of Kentucky. I did well, publishing a law review, competing on the National Trial Team and National Moot Court team, and getting a CALI award for my work with the Kentucky Innocence Project, and graduating in the top third of my class (while finishing felony probation and working two jobs).
I was denied the ability to sit for the bar exam by the Kentucky Supreme Court, however, until I am no longer present on the registry despite the fact that I have finished my criminal sentence. In Kentucky, I will be 49 years old when I’m off the registry.
Rather than sit on my laurels, I have endeavored to do what I went to law school to do anyway: be an advocate. To that end, I have used my story, my experiences, and legal training to do what I can to advocate for more effective and humane sexual offense policies and laws, to help those who struggle with addiction, and to advocate for those who have no advocates.
Happily enough, I am a member of such a class, so while I cannot use my legal training to represent anyone else, I can use it on my own behalf. To that end, I am the plaintiff in a federal civil rights lawsuit in the Eastern District of Kentucky which overturned a group of Kentucky statutes that barred anyone on the registry from social media use (which occasions this AMA). You can read the decision here.
I have a lengthy story, with a lot of different aspects to it. AMA about my story, about recovery from porn addiction, about being on the registry, about ways we can craft more effective, humane, and rational responses to sexual offenses, about law school, about civil rights advocacy, or anything, really.
I’m scared as hell doing this, by the way, gang.
Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.