By Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg . . . Seth (not his real name) describes himself as an outcast as a child. “I was the fat kid with glasses that got picked on ever since first grade,” said Seth, now 40, who grew up in New Jersey, where he still lives. “I was always a socially awkward kid.”
In 1993, when he was 14, Seth said, he sexually experimented with a friend who was 10. The younger boy claimed Seth had threatened to hurt him if he didn’t comply, an allegation Seth denies. The boy told his family, who then confronted Seth.
“I didn’t even know it was against the law,” Seth told The Appeal, who said he at first denied that anything had occurred between himself and the friend because he feared “the stigma of being gay.”
In September 1993, Seth was adjudicated as a delinquent with aggravated sexual assault. He was sentenced to probation and required to receive counseling.
The following year, his situation grew more grave when he was added to New Jersey’s newly established sex offender registry. Under the state’s registry law, known as Megan’s Law, he could be removed from the registry if he remained offense-free for 15 years and could demonstrate that he wasn’t a threat to others.
In 1994, however, Seth was caught shoplifting Legos from a department store, he told The Appeal. And that offense, the local prosecutor has argued, should keep Seth on the registry for the rest of his life.
But a case now before the Superior Court of New Jersey could offer Seth a second chance. The central issue before the court is: If a nonsexual offense occurs within the first 15 years, can the clock restart or is the person forced to stay on the registry permanently?
The court’s decision could impact Seth and the lives of more than 16,000 other registrants—almost 1,000 of whom are children—in New Jersey.
“No matter what my story is, people are going to hear Megan’s Law and automatically assume stuff,” said Seth. “There are certain freedoms that you and other people who are not subject to this take for granted.”