By Guy Hamilton-Smith . . . Ryan is the hardest part of my story to explain.
We have never met, nor will we, and yet he radically changed the course of my life.
The path that I’ve walked since law school was not one that I intended. I did not go to law school advocate for sex offenders. I went to hide. I went for lack of better ideas. I went because it interested me. I went because, while I was fortunate to have parents who put up money to retain counsel, I saw many who did not have adequate representation, nor families standing by their side.
The day after my arrest, I told my professors at school what had happened. I withdrew from graduate school at the end of that semester, where I studied psychology. Law school had never been on my radar. I asked my own lawyer one day after a pre-trial hearing if you could go to law school with a felony conviction.
And, so I went.
I pled guilty to a count of possession of child pornography in 2007. I was 22. I pled guilty because I was guilty. I was a lonely, awkward, bullied teen who was amongst the first generations to grow up with high-speed internet (or, indeed, the internet at all). Without delay, I encountered what writer Sage Webb refers to as ‘pixelated novocaine’ — internet porn. For anyone curious about the particulars of my crime, I did a Reddit AMA last October that you can peruse here.
But what I’m writing here is not really about my offense, though it is impossible to talk about him without talking about it.
I say that I went to law school to hide. Though I was open with my employer and my friends about my story, I worried what others would think of me if they knew. I wanted armor. I wasn’t a felon. I wasn’t a sex offender. I was an attorney. The Honorable. Esquire.
Ironic that I sought a profession held in such ill repute. I joked that I wasn’t sure which would make people hate me more, that I was an attorney, or that I was a sex offender.
I did not, as I said, go to law school to advocate for sex offenders. I burned with a mission to fight for people who lacked fighters, but not them. My best friend in law school suggested to me our 2L year that I would be very effective at it. I quickly discarded the idea. It terrified me.
Were I to advocate for sex offenders, it would betray my own secret shame.
I went to school. I took finals. I went to work. I saw friends and my parents. I dated. I complied with the registration laws. I finished my probation. I lived small. I valued the privacy that I had.
I did that for years.